Pakistan hands over 33 pro-Imran Khan protesters to face trial in military courts
ISLAMABAD, May 26 (Reuters) – Thirty-three supporters of former Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan have been handed over to the military to face trial in military courts for attacking armed forces installations, the minister of defense said on Friday. Interior Rana Sanaullah.
The 33 defendants are among thousands detained since Khan’s arrest on May 9 sparked violent protests across Pakistan. Those handed over to military authorities are charged with trespassing and vandalizing sensitive military installations, Sanaullah said.
Khan was arrested for corruption, which he denies. As he was later released on bail, his confrontation with the country’s powerful generals escalated.
Political unrest has deepened as Pakistan faces its worst economic crisis in decades. Inflation is at record highs, economic growth is anemic and there are fears that the country could default on its external debts unless the International Monetary Fund releases deferred disbursements.
“The defendants who are handed over to the military are those who broke into and entered very sensitive defense installations,” Sanaullah told a news conference in Islamabad. He said evidence suggested protesters damaged or stole important equipment, computers and other data collection sources.
He said only those involved in violating no-go zones would be tried under military laws, suggesting there would be no mass trials in military courts.
But in response to a question, he also suggested that Khan could also be tried by a military tribunal, saying: “as far as my own assessment and the evidence we have…this man is the architect of everything. this mess and planning, so yes, he falls into that category.”
Rights groups have raised concerns about military trials of civilians, saying they cannot guarantee a fair trial. These courts are closed to foreigners and the media.
The minister said that after a verdict from the military courts, the defendants would have the right to appeal to a high court and then to the Supreme Court.
Reporting by Asif Shahzad, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Alex Richardson
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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