Pakistan admits to holding 700 ‘terrorists’ without charge
* Attorney general tells SC government can’t try these people under the law nor can release them unless army operation in Waziristan is over
ISLAMABAD: Around 700 people are in the custody of security agencies, Attorney General Irfan Qadir told the Supreme Court on Thursday during the hearing of Adiala Jail prisoners’ case.
The prisoners were allegedly picked up by the agencies after their release outside the Adiala Jail. The court expressed dissatisfaction over the report submitted by the FATA Secretary Nasir Jamal during the hearing. Jamal informed that hand grenade and weapons were recovered from the prisoners and they had attacked an army convoy in FATA. Tariq Asad, counsel for the captives, argued how could the weapons be recovered from the prisoners since they were in custody.
The chief justice remarked that the ISI had given a written statement that no weapon was recovered from the Adiala Jail inmates. The prisoners could not be released until the ongoing military operation in those regions concludes, Irfan Qadir said, and added that the prisoners would be tried under FCR regulations. He said they were arrested in connection with the ‘war on terror’. The suspects, he said, were arrested in FATA, where the army has been fighting militants for around a decade. He said none of the suspects could be freed until the end of operations in the tribal belt, and declined to say how long they had been in custody.
Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, heading a three-member bench, said the suspects must be put on trial, and noted holding them indefinitely was a violation of their human rights. “These people cannot be kept in illegal custody for an indefinite period, as
it is against the constitution and basic fundamental rights,” he said. The attorney general further told the court that evidence against the prisoners has been collected and their trial will be completed within a month. He also said the detainees would be tried under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).
The chief justice asked the attorney general how the captives would be tried under the FCR when their was no proof against them. “Tell us under what law they have been detained for the last 15 months.” He reiterated that the agencies cannot detain anyone even for a day without evidence. The attorney general said the court taking suo motu regarding the matter must first decide about the law and then issue an order for their release. The government would then implement it.
The CJP remarked that if the court gave an order it would have long-lasting effects, and they would have to face the consequences. The attorney general retorted that not only the government but the whole nation would face the consequences. The chief justice repeated that before the court issues an order, find out a way, as it was the matter of fundamental rights. Qadir requested the court to grant one week to review the prisoners’ status. On his request the court adjourned the case till January 28.
The Supreme Court is investigating the fate of seven Adiala Jail inmates who have been held without trial since 2007, even though a judge had ordered their release in May 2010. The seven men who were arrested in the tribal belt in November 2007 disappeared after their release was ordered in 2010. In February 2012 the Supreme Court forced the ISI and Military Intelligence to produce the men in court — an unprecedented move. The men were in poor health, barely able to stand or talk, and they remain in custody to this day. There were originally 11 detainees in the case but the court was told that four of them died.