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Safoora Goth carnage convicts challenge conviction

KARACHI: The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday issued notices to the defence and interior secretaries on the appeals of five convicts challenging their death sentence handed down in the Safoora Goth bus carnage and murder of prominent social activist, Sabeen Mahmud.

The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) had announced in May the confirmation of the death sentences of five “hardcore terrorists” Tahir Minhas, Saad Aziz, Asadur Rehman, Mohammad Azhar Ishrat and Hafiz Nasir Ahmed by the military courts in a number of cases of terrorism, including the Safoora Goth carnage and Ms Mahmud’s murder.

The five convicts, through their counsel, filed as many identical appeals and submitted that they were tried by the military court, set up at the Malir cantonment, adding that they were kept in the Karachi central prison, where they were provided with the appeal format to file the same before the registrar, court of appeals, Judge Advocate-General of the General Headquarters of Army.

They further said that in August they were informed that their appeals had been turned down on July 25, 2016, and capital punishment upheld. Then, they moved the Lahore High Court against the conviction, but their appeals were rejected for not being maintainable since the offence was committed and trial was conducted within the jurisdictions of SHC.

The lawyer for appellants argued that the conviction order passed by the military court was not maintainable in the eyes of the law as they were tried under the Protection of Pakistan Act, 2014, which now stood expired, and the petitioners did not belong to any terrorist organisation, terrorist group using the name of religion, sect or raised arms, waged war against Pakistan as decided by the joint investigation team.

He contended that the appellants were illegally tried and that too in the absence of counsel in violation of Article 10 of the Constitution, as they were also kept in communicado during their trial and investigation.

The counsel claimed that the appellants’ right to fair trial under Article 10-A has also been violated since the apex court had also held in a case that an accused cannot be denied meeting with family under Note-7 appended to Section 73 of the Pakistan Army Act.

He maintained that the Supreme Court had also remanded back the petitions of many convicts who had challenged their conviction and sentences by the military courts, to the high courts concerned on the same questions. Therefore, he pleaded to the court to call for the record and proceedings of the military court trial for its perusal and set aside the conviction.

A two-judge appellant bench of SHC headed by Justice Zafar Ahmed Rajput put the defence and interior secretaries, as well as federal and provincial law officers on notice with directions to file their comments till Jan 16.

The prosecution said that 47 people of Shia Ismaili community, including 18 women, were killed in an armed attack on their bus near Safoora Goth in May 2015.

Sabeen Mahmud, social media campaigner and human rights activist who founded the social forum T2F, was gunned down in April 2015 in Defence Housing Authority when returning home with her mother after organising a seminar on Balochistan.

Police in the investigation report had contended that all the accused of Safoora Goth carnage remained associated with Al Qaeda and following its split, they became part of the self-styled Islamic State group.

Besides convicting five accused, the military court had acquitted three others former Fishermen Cooperative Society vice-chairman Sultan Qamar Siddiqui, his brother Hussain Qamar Siddiqui and Sajid Naeem from the charges of allegedly facilitating the main accused.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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