A special anti-terrorism court in Lahore on Thursday acquitted all suspects in the Sahiwal encounter case giving them the benefit of doubt.
The court announced the verdict after the suspects' lawyers completed a cross-questioning of the testimonies of government witnesses.
ATC-I Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta heard the case.
During hearings of the case, the court had recorded statements of 49 witnesses, including close relatives of a victim Zeeshan and another victim Mohammad Khalil. During the proceedings, all the suspects appeared before the court.
The injured witnesses [children of Khalil who were accompanying the victim when he was targeted] had not identified the suspects nor were the suspects identified during photogrammetric tests. The court added that the official who had provided the suspects with the weapons said he was returned all the weapons and bullets.
In January, Mohammad Khalil, his wife and their three children were travelling in a car, with their neighbour Zeeshan behind the steering wheel, when Counter-Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel stopped the vehicle and opened fire on the passengers suspecting them to be terrorists. Khalil’s two children Umair and Muneeba had survived the attack.
The suspects said that they had information that Zeeshan had links with a terrorist outfit. They also claimed that all the victims were killed in an 'encounter' which turned out to be false after the two minor children narrated facts of the incident to the public.
Initially, the trial was conducted in Sahiwal, however, the Lahore High Court on June 17 shifted the proceedings to Lahore allowing an application filed by the victims' family. The petitioners contended that they had been facing problems while attending trial proceedings in Sahiwal. They also cited security reasons and asked the court to shift the trial proceedings from Sahiwal to Lahore.