Govt Deems Military Trial Of Civilians Involved In May 9 Incident Critical To Serve Justice

Govt submits one-page response to Supreme Court over resumption of military trial of civilians over May 9 a day before five-member bench led by Justice Ijazul Ahsan starts proceedings

Govt Deems Military Trial Of Civilians Involved In May 9 Incident Critical To Serve Justice

Amid reports and complaints that the military has resumed the military trial of civilians apprehended under the Army Act and Official Secrets Act for attacking military and other sensitive installations on May 9, the government has informed the top court that it is imperative to resume these trials.

A five-judge bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan is expected to take up petitions challenging trials of civilians in military courts on Monday.
In a one-page reply submitted by the Islamabad Advocate on Record Anis Muhammad Shehzad, the federal government informed the apex court that some 102 people had been arrested under the Pakistan Army Act 1952, read with the Official Secrets Act 1923, for their involvement in the attacks on military installations and establishments across the country including the Generals Headquarter in Rawalpindi, the Corps Commander House in Lahore, the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) Base in Mianwali, the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Establishment in the Civil Lines, Faisalabad, Sialkot Cantonment, the ISI Establishment in Hamza Camp, Rawalpindi, the Gujranwala Cantt, Bannu Cantt among other installations.

The government said that it was necessary to complete the trials of these civilians to safeguard the interest of the accused.
"To safeguard the interests of the accused persons, it is imperative that their trials are conducted and concluded so that those who may merit acquittal can be acquitted and those who may merit minor sentences and have already served the time in custody can also be released," the reply stated, hinting that the government was interested in culminating trials for those who had either been arrested on mistaken identity or those who were involved but at a lesser extent and can thus be released because they had already spent time in confinement awaiting trial equivalent to their prospective sentencing. 

"Furthermore, accused persons, if convicted, can avail remedies available under the law," the government submitted.  

The federal government further submitted that the trials of these accused shall remain subject to the outcome of the proceedings in the titled petition.

It is pertinent to note that these suspects were apprehended in May this year following the attacks. They were identified using videos and images posted on social media and the images captured by closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras and have been in custody ever since. 

The top court, while deliberating on whether civilians can be tried in military courts, had halted a trial of civilians in military courts, taking assurances from the government that in all such trials, civilians will still enjoy the right to independent counsels and be able to properly contest cases while the top court would have to be informed before any such trial commences.

The writer is an Islamabad based journalist working with The Friday Times. He tweets @SabihUlHussnain