SC suspends PHC’s acquittal of 73 terrorists convicted by military courts


–AAG says there is a possibility that the high court didn’t examine facts properly 


ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Friday stayed the release of 73 terror suspects, suspending a Peshawar High Court (PHC) verdict setting aside their convictions that had been awarded by military courts

A two-member bench of the SC headed by Justice Azmat Saeed also ordered the jail superintendent to halt the release of the accused.

The accused had received varying sentences, including death, in a number of cases. The PHC had recently overturned the military court sentences on the basis of a lack of evidence. The Defence Ministry had subsequently filed appeals against the PHC’s decision.

As the top court heard an appeal challenging the suspension on Friday, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Sajid Ilyas Bhatti contended the possibility that the high court “had not examined the facts properly” and added that the suspects had been charged with serious terror-related crimes.

He requested the court to restore the sentences so that the judicial process is not compromised.

The apex court responded by staying the high court’s judgement and barred jail superintendents from releasing the convicts.

The hearing was adjourned for an indefinite period of time.

Earlier in November, the SC restrained authorities from releasing over 70 individuals who were convicted by military courts on the charge of militant activities.

The Ministry of Defence had filed an appeal against the PHC verdict that set aside convictions of 73 persons convicted by military courts on terrorism charges, including suicide attacks and killing of law enforcement personnel and civilians.

AAG Bhatti had appeared before the bench and stated that the cases which have been dealt under Army Act could not be considered through ordinary laws, adding that the PHC while deciding the matter overlooked certain principles.

After a brief hearing, the bench restrained the federal government to release individuals. The bench while issuing notices to respondents has adjourned the hearing for an indefinite period.

It is pertinent to note that PHC suspended the convictions awarded by military courts in various cases. The chief of the army staff had confirmed the death sentence of the convicts, however, the families of the convicts had challenged the order in the court which stayed their execution.

After the end of the three-day hearing on Oct 18, the court had accepted the petitions filed mostly by close relatives of the military court’s convicts majority of whom were sentenced to death on account of different acts of terrorism.

The bench observed that the entire judicial confessional statements recorded in Urdu were ‘in one and the same handwriting and in one specific tone/style’.

“It is admitted at the bar that for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa there were in all three Field General Court Martial courts and each and every document on file would show that all the three courts were functioning on one and the same pattern not even a single accused has deviated differently to the questions put on him,” it pointed out.

The bench said the questions put to all accused were same with exactly the same answers in all cases also for the purpose of engaging a private counsel. “The same format would reflect there were planned proceedings in all the said three courts.”

“It is observed from the record, so produced that they have erased each and every date, the names of the prosecution’s witnesses, their designations, and many other things.”