LAHORE/ISLAMABAD: The government has intensified its diplomatic efforts for saving a Pakistani national, Zulfiqar Ali, who is facing imminent execution in Indonesia after being convicted of drug-related charges in a controversial trial.
Adviser to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, who is in Laos for an Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Regional Forum meeting, has sought a meeting with his Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi on the issue, according to a diplomat.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Ambassador Iwan Suyudhie Amri was summoned to the Foreign Office over the expected execution.
“Indonesian ambassador in Islamabad was also called in by the ministry and asked to convey the government of Pakistan’s concern to his authorities,” Foreign Office spokesman Nafees Zakariya said in response to a query from Dawn.
After languishing in jail for 12 years, Ali is set to be executed in Indonesia.
The Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a human rights law firm, has requested the president to take up the matter with the Indonesian government to save the life of ‘an innocent Pakistani’.
Ali, 52, was arrested in November 2004 in connection with a 300-gram heroine case in Jakarta. A co-accused in the case, Gurdip Singh, retracted his statement against Ali, saying the confession had been coerced from him.
The JPP said the Indonesian police had been unable to bring forward any material evidence to support their charge against Ali.
“Despite this, the Pakistan embassy in Jakarta has received a notification that Ali will be executed in the near future and that the family will be given a 72-hour notice,” it said.
Ali was arrested at his home without a warrant in Indonesia’s West Java province. For three days, he was “kicked, punched and threatened with death” by the Soekarno-Hatta Airport district police until he was forced to sign a “self-incriminating confession”.
The JPP said that at one point he was taken out of the police station and threatened to be tied and dragged by a car.
Ali was rushed into an emergency stomach and kidney surgery due to the severity of the physical torture he was subjected to. He remained in the hospital for 17 days, for which the expenses had to be borne by his family, and he still suffered from a number of medical issues as a result, the JPP said.
“Ali, the father of six, was not provided a lawyer for a month, and no one from the Pakistan embassy was contacted. He was detained for over three months before being brought to the first trial hearing. And even though his confession was coerced, as Ali recalled in detail during the trial, the judge allowed it to be used as evidence.”
The JPP said Ali did not speak the local language and received limited translation assistance throughout his detention and court proceedings.
“Ali told the prosecutor that the report against him was false and had been obtained through torture. During the proceedings, the prosecutor asked him to admit whatever the police said, saying that otherwise he would be given a higher sentence. Ali told the court that he had been tortured by the police. Photographs were available to the court which evidenced this. When he refused to accept the report, a bribe of 400 million Indonesian rupiah was demanded to reduce the sentence from capital punishment to 10-15 years. Ali refused to pay the bribe and continued to proclaim his innocence.”
It said Ali had been denied fair trial and his only legal recourse now was to apply for clemency with the Indonesian president.
The JPP pointed out that European citizens were likely to be excused from execution for the same conviction. “Ali, a citizen of a fellow Muslim country, will be executed by firing squad if the Pakistan government does not act now, swiftly,” it said.
Ali’s wife, Siti Rouhani, has pinned her last hopes on the government.
“If I get some support from Pakistan, something may happen and my husband may be saved,” she said.
JPP Legal Director Maryam Haq said: “So flimsy a case does not and cannot warrant so final a sentence. He was tortured relentlessly and deprived of his most basic legal rights. Given that there is stronger evidence to support his innocence than guilt, it is now time for the president of Pakistan to appeal to our Muslim allies and save an innocent Pakistani’s life. Ali’s execution would be grossly unlawful with such severe due-process violations during his detention, trial and conviction.”
Published in Dawn, July 26th, 2016