ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan’s most powerful intelligence agency held seven suspected militants who were sought by the Supreme Court for more than a year and a half without sufficient evidence to try them, the agency’s lawyer said Monday.
The admission, made in a court hearing, was likely to fuel concerns about the conduct of Pakistan’s security establishment in its battle against a domestic Taliban insurgency during the past several years. Rights organizations have accused Pakistani security forces of holding scores of suspected militants without trying them.
Raja Irshad, a lawyer for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which is controlled by the army, said he told the Supreme Court that officials held the men because they were convinced they were “dangerous people and involved in terrorism.”
The seven men were among 11 suspected militants captured in connection with a 2007 suicide bombing against ISI personnel and a rocket attack a year later against an air force base. An anti-terrorism court ordered them to be freed in May 2010, but they were picked up again from a jail near the capital of Islamabad. Four died in custody under mysterious circumstances.
The ISI produced the seven surviving men in court last February in response to a judicial order. Two of them were too weak to walk. Another wore a urine bag, suggesting a kidney ailment. In a meeting with their families on the court premises, they complained of harsh treatment during their detention.
In a rare move, an unnamed “security official” issued a four-page statement at the time through the state-run news agency listing the accusations against the men. The statement — presumably released by the ISI — alleged the 11 were “hard-core terrorists” and that “the sympathizers of terrorists have forgotten the miseries” of the families of those killed in the 2007 and 2008 attacks.
The ISI handed the seven men over to the administration of Pakistan’s semiautonomous tribal region in January 2012, said Irshad, the agency’s lawyer. The court has summoned the tribal region’s chief official to appear Tuesday to explain why the men were held without sufficient evidence, said Tariq Asad, the lawyer for the seven men.
Amnesty International claimed in a report in December that the Pakistani military regularly holds people without charges and tortures or mistreats them in custody. The London-based group said some detainees do not survive and their bodies are returned to their families, or dumped in remote areas.
The Pakistani military called the report “a pack of lies.”
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