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Case of ‘missing’ Adiala prisoners far from over

Published Aug 13, 2012 02:45am

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The image shows men detained and hooded by security forces. — Photo by Reuters

The story of 11 prisoners allegedly abducted by an intelligence agency from outside Adiala Jail over two years ago has been coming up from time to time. Human rights organisations and activists have been calling them the “Adiala 11.” Four of these prisoners have already expired under mysterious circumstances and the fate of others now depends on the Supreme Court.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, heard the case on Aug 9. It directed the counsel appearing on behalf of intelligence agencies to produce evidence, if any, they had against the seven detained prisoners.

The agencies’ counsel had claimed in 2010 that they would be tried under the Army Act. During previous hearing he claimed that due to lack of evidence they could not be put on trial under the Army Act. On different occasions the court was informed that presently they had been interned at an internment centre in Parachinar (Kurram Agency).

In the cases of “missing persons” before Peshawar High Court a list was submitted by the federal government showing the names of internees at different internment centres. In one of the lists the names of the seven prisoners – Gul Roze, Syed Abdul Majid, Syed Abdul Basit, Mohammad Shafiq, Shafiqur Rehman, Mohammad Mazharul Haq and Dr Niaz – were also given. According to that list, these prisoners have been shown as internees since Jan 26, 2012, and are placed in the category of “Black.”

The way the intelligence agencies have been dealing with these prisoners shows that their case is far from over. These prisoners continue to be interned without referring them for trial by an appropriate forum.

The 11 prisoners were arrested from different places in connection with cases of terrorism. In one of the cases related to a suicide bombing targeting a bus of Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in Rawalpindi on Nov 24, 2007, they were acquitted by an anti-terrorism court on April 9, 2010.

Despite their acquittal they were kept detained under laws meant for preventive detention. Finally, the Lahore High Court declared their detention illegal on May 28, 2010, and they went missing from the prison. Their family members alleged that they were taken away by officials of intelligence agencies.

When their disappearance was challenged before the Supreme Court the intelligence agencies initially denied they had any knowledge about them. However, the Punjab government informed the court that they were handed over to intelligence agencies. The agencies’ counsel informed the court in Dec 2010 that they were in the custody of intelligence agencies, but were arrested in a conflict area in connection with an attack on security forces convoy.

The agencies continued to mislead the court through different statements. These 11 detainees were never tried and four of them – Mohammad Aamir, Said Arab, Tehseenullah and Abdul Saboor — expired in the custody of an intelligence agency.

Legal experts believe that the agencies have now been relying on the law introduced last year – Action (in aid of civil power) Regulation 2011 for Fata. However, they say that ultimately these seven internees had either to be released or handed over to law-enforcement agencies for prosecution.

Section 10 of the regulation provides remedy for release of an internee. It provides that an interning authority, to be notified by the government, based on report referred to him and material produced before it may direct that the person is an offender and after the conclusion of the action in aid of civil power he shall be handed over to the law-enforcement agencies for formal prosecution.

The order of internment of a person shall be considered valid from the date the order of internment is issued till the continuation of action in aid of civil power. Even if the claim of the intelligencer agency is accepted that these internees were arrested from conflict zone, then they have to be treated under the regulation. If it is presumed that they were arrested in Kurram Agency then they could not longer be interned, as Kurram Agency is no longer a conflict zone.

The law provides that after notification of termination of the action in aid of civil power by the federal government, the persons interned shall be handed over to the functioning civilian law-enforcement authorities along with evidence collected against such persons.