Pakistan quietly frees 100 men suspected of terrorism

December 19th, 2007 - 6:28 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Dec.19 (ANI): Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of having links to terrorism.
The International Herald Tribune quoted human rights groups and lawyers as saying that those released, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared with the help of Pakistani intelligence agencies between 2001 and 2007.
The reason for facilitating the releases is murky, but as pressure has mounted to bring the cases to court, the government has decided to jettison some suspects, thereby sparing itself the embarrassment of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in the secret system, its opponents say.
Interviews with lawyers and human rights officials here and a review of cases and court records by The New York Times show how scraps of information have accumulated into a body of evidence over recent months.
In one case, a suspect tied to the killing of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, was dumped on a garbage heap, so thin and ill he died 20 days later.
“They are releasing them because these cases are being made public. They want to avoid the publicity,” said Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, a Supreme Court lawyer.
The rights groups and lawyers allege that the government has swept up at least 4,000 other Pakistanis, mostly Baluch and Sindh nationalists campaigning for ethnic or regional autonomy who have nothing to do with the U.S. war on terrorism.
Human rights groups and lawyers describe the disappearances as one of the grimmest aspects of the Musharraf regime, and one that shows no signs of slowing down.
The issue of the missing had become one of the most contentious between Musharraf and the Supreme Court under its former chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry.
Detainees have been warned on their release not to speak to anyone about their detention, yet fragments of their experiences have filtered out through relatives and their lawyers.
A few have even appeared in court and told their stories.
The government still denies detaining people illegally or torturing them.
Javed Iqbal Cheema, spokesman for the Interior Ministry and head of the national crisis-management cell that deals with terrorism, said many of the men said to be missing had been found in jails or police cells and had been charged with crimes. Others, he said, may have gone to the hills or to Afghanistan to fight and had died there. Other cases, he suggested, were fabricated.
“Let me assure you that there’s a lot of politics going on into the missing persons also,” he said.
Critics say the abuses continue.
The director of the Human Rights Commission, I. A. Rehman, said the government had set up a nearly invisible detention system.
“There are safe houses in Islamabad where people are kept. Police have admitted this, flats are taken on rent, property is seized, people are tortured there,” he said.
Cheema acknowledges that prosecutors and investigators had had difficulty pinning crimes on detainees.
“Sometimes it becomes difficult to prove a case, but you have reasons that a person poses a threat to humanity and to society,” he said. (ANI)

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