SC bench takes up appeals of convicts in APS case

Updated February 17, 2016

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court was informed on Tuesday that the appeals filed by two convicts in the Peshawar’s Army Public School (APS) massacre case in the military appellate forum had been rejected, and the competent authority — the army chief — had approved their death sentences.

The information was shared with the three-judge bench, headed by Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, by Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt and Deputy Judge Advocate General Col Jhamshed to comply with its last orders.

While staying the executions of the four military court convicts, including Taj Mohammad alias Rizwan and Aliur Rehman, alleged facilitators of the APS carnage on Feb 9, the apex court had directed the federal government to explain whether the appeals filed against the death sentence before the appellate forum by the accused were still pending or finally decided.

The bench had taken up appeals moved by the two convicts against the Peshawar High Court verdict of rejecting their plea on different dates.

On Tuesday, the court reiterated its previous orders by asking the government to submit complete case record of the trial court or the Field General Court Martial. The government submitted the judicial record that concerns the high court.

The bench adjourned the matter since Advocate Latif Afridi, who had defended the petitioners, was not available but made it clear that it was the last adjournment and no similar opportunity will be provided in future.

The court observed that while dismissing petitions challenging the 21st Amendment it had reaffirmed that any order passed, decision taken or sentence awarded by military courts would be subject to judicial review by high courts and the Supreme Court on the grounds of being coram-non-judice, without jurisdiction or suffering from mala fides, including malice in law.

The convicts in their appeals had said that the evidence against them had not been recorded in their presence nor any opportunity was granted to cross-examine the witnesses.

It was indeed surprising and shocking for their family, especially Nek Maro, the mother and petitioner, when she heard the news that Rizwan had been sentenced to death, but failed to learn his whereabouts despite approaching authorities of Peshawar and Haripur jails.

The appeal argued that the convict had been taken by army personnel handcuffed and blindfolded and though told that he was being taken to a court the accused never saw any court and was not aware whether there any judge was sitting there.

It said the accused was asked to put his thumb impression on a paper which he did but had no idea what sort of papers they were.

The appeal said fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution had been denied to the accused since he was never provided any opportunity to engage a counsel.

Published in Dawn, February 17th, 2016