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Six released from Bagram detained under FCR

By Waseem Ahmad Shah 2013-12-03
PESHAWAR, Dec 2: Six Pakistani prisoners released after remaining in the US custody at Bagram Prison in Afghanistan for many years and repatriated to Pakistan last month have been detained at Peshawar Central Prison under the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR).

Relatives and lawyers were allowed to meet the prisoners on Monday on the order of the Lahore High Court (LHC), where a petition filed by a nonprofit law firm, Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), has been pending for the last couple of years regarding illegal detention of Pakistani prisoners in Bagram Prison.

`We have been told by the prison officials that these six prisoners have been held under Section 40 of FCR on the order of the administration of Khyber Agency,` said Barrister Sarah Belal, director of JPP.

She said she would raise the matter before LHC during the hearing on Dec 5.

The lawyer said prisoners would be again produced before the political agent on Dec 6.`I am at a loss why these innocent people have been detained by Pakistan authorities,` the lawyer said, adding that the government should release them forthwith as their further detention was unconstitutional and illegal.

Last month, a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had informed Justice Mohammad Khalid Mahmood of LHC that six prisoners, including Hameedullah Khan, Sabeel Suleman, Abdul Qadir Imran, Mohammad Riaz, Abdul Karim and Palak Jan, had been handed over to Pakistani authorities on Nov 16, 2013 after being released from Bagram Prison.

One of these prisoners, Hameedullah Khan, was only 14 when he had gone missing while travelling to ancestral town in South Waziristan in 2008 from Karachi, where his family has been settled for many years.

`Six months after his disappearance, we came to know through the International Committee of the Red Cross that he has been detained at Bagram Prison,` Wakeel Khan, father of Hameedullah, told reporters outside Peshawar Central prison after he met his son.

He said although he talked to Hameedullah after every 40-45 days through Skype, an audiovisual communication device, he had met him physically after over five years.

Mr Wakeel said his son was innocent and was taken away by secret agencies before being given to Americans.`We belong to South Waziristan and got settled in Karachi in 1990. Hameed was also born there in 1994,` he said, adding that when military operation was launched in Waziristan in 2008, Hameed had gone there to fetch some valuables from the family house but went missing on his way.

`It was a very happy reunion when I met Hameed as I was only 10 when he had gone missing,` said Hamadullah, who was accompanying his father Wakeel Khan.

Family members of two of the prisoners, Mohammad Riaz and Imran, said they belonged to Bara, Khyber Agency, and had gone to Afghanistan for labour work in 2005.

`My brother, who is now 25, was arrested in Jalalabad on some wrong information provided by some of his colleagues and since then he remained imprisoned at Bagram without any trial, said Mohammad Waseem, brother of Riaz.

He said although he talked several times to Riaz on Skype, physically meeting him after eight years was altogether a different experience, which he would never forget.

`My brother was jubilant when I met him, but apparently he is suffering from mental stress,` Waseem said.

Same views were shared by Salahuddin Khan, brother of Imran, saying they did not know from where they would get justice as his brother was kept in illegal detention for over eight years and now the Pakistani authorities had imprisoned him.

`There were 50 non-afghan prisoners detained at Bagram Prison and of them, 37 belonged to Pakistan,` Barrister Sarah said, adding that all the prisoners had been held for several years without charge, trial or access to a lawyer.

`The release of these prisoners from Bagram is a great success and we will step up efforts for the release of rest of the detainees fmm that prison,` said a beaming lawyer, who along with her team has been appearing before the LHC for the last around three years.

`It was difficult for me to control my emotions when the reunion of the relatives with these prisoners took place after so many years as all of them were cheerful,` she said.

Barrister Sarah said credit also went to the LHC as on a number of occasions since 2011, the bench had directed the government to secure the immediate release of these Pakistanis who were in a legal limbo in Bagram Prison.