LAHORE: Six Pakistani detainees, held at the prison in Bagram, Afghanistan by US authorities, have been released and repatriated to Pakistan. But these prisoners since been held in incommunicado detention in Pakistan, The Express Tribune learnt on Tuesday.
The US Department of Justice, Civil Division, disclosed this in a letter written to the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune. The Department of Justice informed the US court of the release of Hameedullah, whose hearing was underway.
“Hamidullah, who was previously detained by the Department of Defence at the Bagram Air Force Base, Afghanistan, on November 16, 2013 was transferred to the custody of the government of Pakistan. Hameedullah is no longer in the custody or control of the US government,” the letter stated, confirming the release of Hameedullah.
Advocate Maryam Haq, the counsel pursuing the case of detainees before the in the Lahore High Court (LHC), told The Express Tribune claimed that five other detainees – Sabeel Suleiman, Abdul Qadir Imran, Mohammed Riaz, Abdul Karim and Palak Jan – had also released and handed over to the Pakistani government, but the government has not disclosed their custody and have kept the six men in incommunicado detention.
Haq said they have again moved the Lahore High Court asking the ministry of foreign affairs to hand the detainees over to their families. She said most probably on Wednesday the case would be taken up by Justice Khalid Mahmood. She added that they have filed an application in a petition on this matter already pending before the court.
Justice Project Pakistan, a non-profit law firm representing these Pakistani detainees in the LHC since 2011, issued a press release on Tuesday claiming that six Pakistani detainees had been released from US custody and repatriated to Pakistan last week.
The JPP demanded that the Pakistani government release and repatriate them. The release further said that Pakistan authorities have still not issued any statement or provided any information to the families or the lawyers about the whereabouts of the released detainees.
JPP contends that all six Pakistanis have been held for several years without charge, trial or access to a lawyer.
At present, JPP has not been informed of their clients’ location nor have they been granted access to them.
Hamidullah was reportedly only 14 years old when he was kidnapped from Pakistan in 2008 and illegally detained in Bagram, despite being a juvenile. Two of the other detainees, Abdul Qadir Imran and Mohammed Riaz, were picked up by the Afghan army and handed over to the US military in 2005. None have ever been charged with a crime, JPP claimed.
On a number of occasions since 2011, the LHC directed the government to secure the immediate release of these Pakistanis from Bagram. In October 2012, the government submitted a list of six Pakistani detainees due to be released. It took over a year, however, for their repatriation to materialise.
Barrister Sarah Belal, a counsel for JPP also defending the detainees, maintained that the delay from the Pakistan government adds to the injustice instead of providing relief.
“A victory that should have occurred by order of the court one year ago is a resounding defeat. It does not show that the system is working. It shows an ongoing pattern of delays and stalls that needs to end,” Belal said.
The six men are still being detained illegally, but this time by their own government. Their current detention is at an undisclosed location, with no access to their families or their lawyers.
“It took the Pakistani government more than a year to repatriate men who are innocent of any crime and should never have been detained. Now they are holding them incommunicado, without access to their families or to their lawyers.”
Belal contended that this detention following their repatriation was “illegal” and that it “must come to an end.” “They have suffered too long because of the failures of the US government and their home government.”
“While we are relieved that our clients have finally been released from the horror of Bagram, thanks to the efforts of Justice Khalid Mehmood Khan of the LHC, the years-long nightmare will not be over until they are free and back at home with their families,” Belal added.