PESHAWAR: A local court on Thursday fixed Dec 22 for indicting human rights defender Prof Mohammad Ismail for cyber terrorism and hate speech.

District and sessions judge Ashfaque Taj also non-bailable warrants for the arrest of the accused during the last hearing due to his absence from the hearing.

Prof Ismail, who is the father of social activist Gulalai Ismail, appeared before the court and filed an application for the cancellation of his arrest warrants in the case, which was registered by the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Circle, Peshawar.

The applicant insisted that he didn’t received the court’s notice for the last hearing on Nov 28 and instead, an unidentified FIA official called him in the morning on that day asking him to appear before the trial court, but as he didn’t live in Peshawar, he couldn’t act accordingly.

Peshawar court fixes hearing for Dec 22

In the same case, Prof Ismail was arrested on Oct 24, 2019, from outside the Peshawar High Court where he had gone to attend hearing into his petition for the quashing of a terror financing case filed against him, his wife and daughter Gulalai Ismail by the CTD, Peshawar.

He, who is also a member of the Pakistan NGOs Forum, was granted a conditional bail by the high court on Nov 25, 2019, directing him “not to repeat the offence.” He was freed afterwards.

In the FIR, the FIA claimed that four people, including Sajid Iqbal, Ali Ahmad, Riazur Rehman and Wajid Mir, had lodged a complaint with the additional director at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Wing that two social media accounts, one on Facebook and another on Twitter, were used for spreading hate speech and fake information against the country’s government institutions.

It added that an application was submitted to the district and sessions judge to order the head of the security department and custodian of records, Facebook Incorporation to provide the details of recent activities against the said Facebook profile.

The FIA insisted that it had learnt that the Facebook ID in question was used by the accused.

The FIR was registered under section 10 (cyber terrorism) and section 11 (hate speech) of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016.

The suspect also filed a petition with the high court seeking the quashing of that FIR. The court had on Dec 8 adjourned hearing into that petition.

In that petition, he had denied his involvement in any act of cyber terrorism and hate speech. He had claimed that cyber terrorism was related to offences covered by the Act’s sections 6, 7, 8 and 9, which deals with unauthorised access to critical infrastructure information system or data, unauthorised copying or transmission of critical infrastructure data, interference with critical infrastructure, and glorification of an offence.

During pendency of that petition, the FIA submitted the challan (charge sheet) against Prof Ismail in the trial court.

The terror financing trial against him, his wife and his daughter by the anti-terrorism court is near completion with the next hearing slated to be held on Jan 5, 2023.

Published in Dawn, December 16th, 2022

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