Supreme Court of Pakistan. — File photo

ISLAMABAD, Jan 6: The episode involving trial of civilians under the Army Act took a new twist on Friday when a widow filed in the Supreme Court a petition challenging the trial under the act of her three sons acquitted by an anti-terrorism court of charges, including attacks on the army's General Headquarters and ISI's Hamza camp.

The federation, directors general of the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence and judge advocate general (JAG) of the GHQ have been made respondents.

The case came to light when a senior law officer of the GHQ, during the hearing of missing persons' case in May last year, had acknowledged before the Supreme Court that all 11 people acquitted by the ATC were in the custody of intelligence agencies.

Three of the accused were found dead in mysterious circumstances in Peshawar's Lady Reading Hospital — two on consecutive days last month.

In her petition filed through Advocate Tariq Asad, Ms Rohaifa said her sons had been kept under 'illegal confinement' with others.

Three of the detainees died during investigation under mysterious circumstances. Their bodies showed clear signs of acute renal failure (ARF) apparently caused by slow poisoning.

In the petition, the ailing mother touched the height of emotion by seeking a court order for the intelligence agencies to immediately kill her sons and hand over their bodies to her, if such a trial was to be conducted and the superior courts could not provide relief to the citizens.

The petition pointed out that under the Army Act, civilians could be tried only in circumstances gravely affecting the maintenance of discipline in the army. “The nexus required is that they should be the persons who are accused of seducing or attempting to seduce any person subject to this act from his duty or allegiance to the government.”

The petitioner requested the court to seek a report on the causes of deaths of the three detainees and the record of proceedings against the survivors. The court should determine if they were subject to the Army Act and, if after the probe, it was found that the arrest and proceedings had not been conducted in accordance with the law the court should declare that they were kept in illegal confinement and direct the authorities to set them free.

The petitioner said her sons Abdul Saboor, Abdul Basit and Abdul Majid were in the business of publication of Holy Quran and Islamic books in Lahore's Urdu Bazaar. They were taken to a police station by the then SHO of Shafiqabad on Nov 25, 2007, from where they went missing.

A petition was filed in the Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court for their release and during the hearing she was informed that three cases had been registered against them under the Anti-Terrorism Act, along with four others.

All the accused were acquitted by the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi on April 8, 2008, because the prosecution could not make out a case against them. But before their release, the Rawalpindi DCO issued a detention order under Maintenance of Public Order Ordinance. It was extended for 90 days by the Punjab home secretary on May 6, 2010.

A habeas corpus petition was filed in the LHC's Rawalpindi bench. The court set aside both the orders on May 28, 2010, and ordered the release of the detainees.

Ms Rohaifa alleged that instead of complying with the court order, the superintendent of jail in Rawalpindi handed over the detainees to the ISI and MI, which took them to an unspecified place. The petitioner said the judge advocate general had informed the apex court on May 2 last year that the detainees had been formally arrested in the first week of April and a case under Section 2 (1) (d) of the Pakistan Army Act, 1952, registered against them. The JAG also said there was a good chance of acquittal as well if sufficient evidence was lacking.

Ms Rohaifa said she had no information about the trial and whereabouts of her sons until a meeting of the relatives of detainees was arranged at an unknown place on the orders of the Islamabad High Court.

She said she was shocked to see that her young sons, aged between 21 and 27, had been brutally tortured and could not stand on their feet as their legs were swollen. This might be a symptom of ARF caused by slow poisoning, Ms Rohaifa said.

She said one of the detainees, Muhammad Amir, was killed on Aug 15 last year and his relatives were told to get the body from the Lady Reading Hospital. She said acute kidney failure was cited as the reason, but his body showed signs of torture.

Two other detainees, Tehseenullah and Said Arab, died on Dec 17 and Dec 18 respectively in the same hospital where they were taken in critical condition.

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