Pakistan's high court orders the spy agency to produce detainees in court
Judges want an explanation of deaths and alleged illegal detentions
The powerful spy agency is facing a rare legal challenge
Rights activists blame the agency for human rights violations
Pakistan’s all-powerful spy agency could face an unprecedented challenge from the nation’s high court after a lawyer representing seven victims urged contempt of court charges Friday.
The Supreme Court had given the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency until midnight Friday to produce the seven men, who according to attorney Tariq Asad, were arrested without due process and injured while in custody.
The ISI has also been ordered to explain the deaths of four other detainees.
Asad said he filed a petition after the Supreme Court adjourned Friday’s hearing without the presence of the seven detainees.
A three-judge panel gave the ISI a new Monday deadline to produce the men.
“The court wants the detainees in court today and they’re not accepting any excuses,” said Asad. “The court has said they have until midnight to produce the detainees, even if it means bringing them to court in a helicopter.”
The court did not spell out consequences if the ultimatum is not heeded.
Long thought to be untouchable, the ISI, or Inter-Services Intelligence, has been ordered to produce seven men it’s accused of holding since 2010 and explaining the deaths of four other detainees.
On Thursday, the spy agency’s lawyer presented the court with medical certificates for four of the seven detainees to show they were hospitalized, and he asked permission from the court to present confidential letters explaining the whereabouts of the other three men, Asad said.
The ISI blamed the death of detainee Abdul Saboor, 29, on natural causes, but his mother said scars on his body prove the agency tortured and killed her son.
“He had so many marks on his body,” Rohaifa Bibi said, pointing to numerous scars in a picture of her son’s corpse. “When they showed me the body, he was just skin and bones.”
Saboor and his brothers were law abiding citizens who printed Korans at a shop in Lahore, Asad said. He did acknowledge that all of the detainees were suspects in several militant attacks, but said they were acquitted of the charges in 2010.
A lawyer for the ISI told the Supreme Court that the spy agency did detain the men for further questioning but said they were set free. The ISI denies any role in their deaths and holds to its claim that they died of natural causes.
The ISI denies any role in the four deaths they have been ordered to explain.
Human rights groups have documented ISI-sanctioned intimidation, torture, enforced disappearances, and killings.
The Asian Human Rights Commission urged Pakistan’s judiciary to prosecute those who are responsible for keeping the people under illegal custody. Otherwise, it said, the courts will be complicit.
Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this report