KARACHI: An antiterrorism court has exonerated five accused persons, including a journalist, in a case pertaining to allegedly possessing explosives and arms.
Five accused — Syed Matloob Hussain; a journalist working for Urdu-language daily Jang, Syed Mohtashim Haider Shah, Syed Imran Haider Shah, Syed Waqar Raza and Mohammad Abbas — were charged with possessing explosives and illicit weapons last year.
Police had arrested Syed Matloob Hussain Moosavi on March 30, 2019. But the reporter’s family alleged that he had been “taken away by unknown men” from his residence in Salman Farsi Society.
His alleged disappearance had sparked protest by journalists’ representatives and human rights bodies and civil society.
The ATC-XIII judge, who conducted trial in the judicial complex inside the central prison, pronounced his verdict reserved after recording evidence and final arguments from both sides.
The judge wrote in his judgement that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against the accused persons beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt.
The judge acquitted all the men of the charges levelled against them by the prosecution.
All the accused persons appeared before the court on bail. The judge cancelled their bail bonds and discharged the surety and ordered their release in the present cases.
According to the prosecution, on a tip-off, police reached the Attock petrol pump near Chakar hotel on May 1, 2019, where they allegedly spotted the five accused persons with a briefcase.
It further mentioned that a hand-grenade and a pistol with five live bullets, documents, passports, a CNIC, ATM cards and petty cash of Rs470 was recovered from the possession of accused Mohtashim Haider.
Police also allegedly recovered a hand-grenade, a pistol of 30-bore calibre with five live bullets, CNIC and other documents from the possession of accused Syed Imran.
The prosecution further mentioned that a hand-grenade, a pistol with five bullets were recovered from the custody of co-accused Waqar.
It added that one hand-grenade and a pistol with three live bullets were seized from co-accused Abbas.
The prosecution further mentioned that a pistol with three live bullets was recovered from the possession of journalist Syed Matloob Hussain.
Five separate cases under Sections 4/5 of the Explosive Substances Act read with Section 23(i)-A of the Sindh Arms Act, 2013 and Section 7 (punishment for acts of terrorism) of the Anti-Terrorism Act, 1997 were lodged at the SITE Superhighway police station on behalf of the state.
In a press conference in May 2019, then DIG-East Amir Farooqi had claimed to have arrested the five persons, including the reporter, for their alleged involvement in sectarian killings.
He had alleged that Matloob had received training from abroad and was downloading a list of personalities from an official website and submitting it to a “foreign handler” for their possible targeted killing at an “appropriate time”.
Matloob made headlines as his family had claimed he was picked up from his home and several media organisations had shown their concerns over his mysterious disappearance.
Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020