The renowned rights activist Perween Rahman was shot dead in the city in 2013; the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Monday acquitted all five individuals jailed in the case, citing a lack of proof, and ordered their freedom.
An anti-terrorism court (ATC) in Karachi condemned four of the accused, namely Abdul Raheem Swati, Ahmed Khan, Amjad Hussain Khan, and Ayaz Swati, to life in prison and imprisoned Imran Swati, the fifth accused, for seven years around nine months prior to the current occurrence.
After eight protracted years of procedures, the trial court’s decision was released, and it was then contested in the high court. In its judgment issued today, a two-member SHC bench, comprising Justice KK Agha and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sangi, observed that none of the accused had been charged with “actually murdering” Rahman. The defendants were accused of “planning, agitating and in fact aiding the murder,” according to the court.
The courts also agreed with the appellants’ attorney that Rahman’s interview from 2011—which was broadcast after her death—was not admissible evidence. It should not be included in the lawsuit, the court decided.
The murder case was also ruled not to be under the ATC’s jurisdiction by the court because it was determined that land grabbing rather than spreading terror was the real reason for the murder.
The court verdict stated, “And as such, the appellants are cleared of any offense under the ATA in the impugned judgment.” The court ruled that in light of this, the confession of the accused Rahim Swati, which was initially recorded under Section 21(H) of the Anti-Terrorism Act but later disowned, ought to have been recorded under Section 164 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. It was therefore “inadmissible un evidence” and “we lay no faith on it.”
The court further noted that none of the accused had any actual evidence against them prior to this confession. The court reached the conclusion that even if all of the evidence had been accepted, it was still insufficient to establish the accused’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The court also ruled that the “required ingredients” of the charge of abetting the crime were not proved against any of the accused. Moreover, evidence, including bullet shells, collected from the crime scene and the forensic analysis report failed to establish a link with any pistol belonging to the accused as no pistol was recovered from them at the time of their arrest, the court order stated.
On these grounds, these pieces of circumstantial evidence were of no consequence, the court concluded. The court believed that a JIT report was “no more than an opinion of an investigating officer and is not proof of any facts in terms of evidence” with relation to the reports of the joint investigation team.
The court further stated that no offenses against the accused under Sections 201 of the Pakistan Penal Code (causing disappearance of evidence of an offense or giving false information to screen offender) and 202 (intentional omission to give information of an offense by a person bound to inform) had been proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution. As a result, the accusation against the appellants is dismissed.
The court said the accused were entitled to the benefit of the doubt as “many doubts concerning the appellants’ involvement in the murder case of the deceased” were found.
Hence, the court ruled, the all of the five men were acquitted and the trial court’s verdict was set aside. They shall be released unless wanted in any other custody case, the court directed.