PHC pauses death sentence of military court convict

Family contends the convict was not allowed to defend himself against the charges

Hidayat Khan July 11, 2018
Peshawar High Court. PHOTO: FILE

PESHAWAR: A high court on Tuesday deferred the execution of a death row inmate — sentenced such by a military court — after his family challenged his conviction as being unfair since he was not given a chance to defend himself.

The deferment comes a week after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) suspended a sentence handed out to another man who had been convicted by a military court of being involved in terrorism.

Army courts awarded death to 186 persons since 2015

Rawaz Khan had been sentenced to death by a military court over the charges of involvement in acts of terrorism. However, his family believes that he was innocent and the charges levelled against him by the prosecution must be proved in court.

A PHC division bench, headed by Justice Qalandar Ali Khan, admitted the petition filed by Rawaz’s mother Halima Bibi, through her attorney Gouhar Rahman Khattak.

Khattak argued that Rawaz, a resident of the Naguman area of Peshawar, had been missing since September 2016.

Later, he claimed, the family found out that he was being held by law enforcement agencies at the Kohat internment centre on charges of being involved in terror acts.

He further told the court that Rawaz’s family journeyed multiple times to the internment centre in Kohat and met with him.

However, the family recently received a letter informing them to visit the internment centre for a last meeting with the detainee since he had been sentenced to death by a military court.

“The allegations against him are baseless and he was not given the right to defend himself,” the lawyer contended.

“His trial cannot be considered as fair as he was not even provided with a lawyer to defend him against the charges,” Khattak claimed.

The counsel requested the bench to set aside the sentence.

The bench, however, only suspended the execution with instructions that it is provided with a full record of the case before it issues any definitive verdict.

The court subsequently issued a notice to the federal ministry of defence and directed it to provide the complete record of the case at the next hearing of the case.

Last week, the PHC was approached over the conviction of another man.

Sadaqat Begum, who submitted through her lawyer Akhunzad Asad Iqbal, had contended that the convict in the case, her husband Shakirullah, is innocent.

‘Terror convict’ military court death sentence suspended

She too argued that her husband was not given an opportunity to defend himself in the military court.

A resident of Dir, the petitioner told the court that her husband went missing on April 19, 2010. Unable to locate him, Begum said that they had lodged an FIR for his disappearance at the Pahari Pura police station in Peshawar.

After eight years, Iqbal said, Begum received a letter on June 11, 2018, informing them that Shakir Ullah was locked up in the Kohat interment centre and that he has been sentenced to death by a military court.

“My client is innocent and his trial by the military court was not fair as he has not been provided with an opportunity to defend himself against the charges levelled against him,” contended Iqbal.

“It is also not clear whether he was provided with a lawyer or not [during his trial].”

The lawyer argued that under the Constitution, every citizen has the right to defend themselves against the charges levelled against them in a court of law. For this purpose, they have the right to hire a lawyer to plead their case.

“There is no record provided about the grounds on which Shakir Ullah has been convicted,” argued the lawyer.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2018.


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