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‘Adiyala prisoners’ unaware of trial

May 15, 2013
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File Photo
Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: The seven surviving Adiyala prisoners who were produced before the Supreme Court for the second time on Tuesday expressed complete ignorance about the trial in which they had been convicted of terrorism and sentenced to different jail terms.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had taken up a miscellaneous application moved by Advocate Tariq Asad, who is representing the prisoners.

An assistant political agent (APA) of lower Orakzai Agency, Mawaz Khan, had on May 2 sentenced two brothers — Syed Abdul Basit and Syed Abdul Majid — to five years imprisonment and Dr Niaz Ahmed, Mohammad Mazharul Haq, Mohammad Shafeeq, Shafeequr Rehman and Gulroze to 14 years on charges of carrying illegal arms and aiding attacks on convoys of the army.

Naveed Akhtar, additional advocate general of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, informed the bench that five of the prisoners were being kept in Peshawar’s Central Jail and the rest in District Jail Haripur.

When they were produced before the court on Feb 13, they were visibly frail, with Abdul Majid carrying a urine bag. And almost all of them were suffering from a skin ailment, with their entire body covered with small blisters.

But on Tuesday they looked in a relatively better shape.

“We have been treated differently and very harshly compared to other inmates,” complained Dr Niaz Ahmed while talking to reporters on Tuesday. He said they were never produced before any court of law except the Supreme Court after they had been picked from Rawalpindi’s Adiyala jail.

Dr Niaz informed the court that they had been shifted from an internment centre in Parachinar to Kohat jail and then to Bannu and Peshawar jails.

The sever prisoners were among the 11 who had mysteriously gone missing from outside Adiyala jail on May 29, 2010 — the day they were acquitted of terrorism charges for their alleged involvement in the audacious Oct 2009 attacks on the GHQ and the ISI’s Hamza Camp in Rawalpindi.

Four of them later died under unexplained circumstances.

They were first sent to the Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar for treatment on the court’s orders and after five of them recovered they were shifted to the internment centre set up under the Action in Aid of Civil Power Regulations 2011, promulgated by President Asif Ali Zardari in exercise of his powers under article 247 of the constitution. They were later handed over to the political administration in Fata for trial under the Frontier Crime Regulation 1901.

On Tuesday, the court took exception to the process under which the prisoners had been sentenced by the political agent of Orakzai Agency and that a tehsildar informed them in Kohat jail that they had been convicted and sentenced.

“Record shows that these men were convicted by the APA on May 2 — the same day when the prisoners were produced before it after the authorities concerned were ordered for their production,” observed Justice Ijaz Chaudhry, a member of the bench, when the APA presented the record of the court proceedings.

The record suggested that the court of the APA had set May 17 as the next date of hearing, but announced the verdict on May 2.

“March 22, 2013, is mentioned as date of arrest of these seven men in your record, but these men had been detained since long,” Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja said.

The court asked Attorney General Irfan Qadir to assist it in determining whether the convicts were dealt with in accordance with article 10-A of the constitution which ensured a fair trial. It ordered APA Mawaz Khan and the additional law secretary of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Shan Zeb, to submit complete record of the trial.

The Peshawar jail authorities have been asked to arrange a meeting between the prisoners and their family members in accordance with jail manual.

The hearing was adjourned to May 22.