Pakistani militants, 3 retired military officers convicted of espionage

Pakistani security officials stated that the country’s military court convicted a prominent human rights defender and three retired military officers on charges of espionage and sedition, and sentenced them to imprisonment ranging from 12 to 14 years.

Islamabad-Two security officials said on Friday that the Pakistan Military Court had convicted a prominent human rights activist and three retired military officers on charges of espionage and sedition, and sentenced them to imprisonment ranging from 12 to 14 years.

The four people were tried in different, unrelated cases. It is not yet clear when and where the lawsuit was filed against them, and two security officers declined to confirm more details.

Activist Idris Khattak disappeared while traveling in the northwest of the country in 2019, and it was later confirmed to be a case of enforced disappearance by Pakistani security agencies. For several months, there was no information about him until the authorities confirmed that he was detained.

According to two security officials who asked not to be named, Khatak was sentenced to 14 years in prison because they did not have the right to discuss the case with the media.

Officials said Khatak was accused of sharing “sensitive and important information” with hostile intelligence agencies and other individuals, leading to several drone strikes by the United States in Pakistan’s turbulent former tribal areas in recent years. They said that Khattak has the right to defend himself through a lawyer.

Three retired military officers — Colonels Faiz Rasul and Mohamed Akmal, and retired Major Saifula Babar — were sentenced to 14 years, 10 years, and 12 years in prison, respectively. One of the security officials said that they were being tried for “espionage and cooperating with hostile intelligence agencies.”

Last month, Amnesty International urged Pakistan to stop the militant suspects and other suspects who had been forcibly missing for many years without trial, calling the practice “abhorrent.” In a chilling report called “Living Ghosts,” human rights organizations described the difficulties faced by families of missing persons in obtaining information about relatives in detention.

The militant’s daughter Talia Khatak told the Associated Press that their family has not received Khatak’s trial or sentencing notice. She said she learned about the incident through social media and did not receive any such information from “my father’s lawyer.”

Khattak’s sentence has drew condemnation from human rights activists on social media, with some people suggesting that he was arrested because he publicly opposed illegal detention and enforced disappearance.

Although Pakistani law prohibits detention without court approval, officials privately admitted that intelligence agencies have detained an unknown number of suspects in detention facilities.