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Pakistan torture case shows how courts are working to claim power

The case of 11 detainees, who had been acquitted, illustrates how the Supreme Court is attempting to challenge Pakistan's dominant military and spy agency.

February 18, 2012|By Alex Rodriguez, Los Angeles Times

Asad was present when the men were hauled away May 29, 2010, the day they were scheduled to be released from a Rawalpindi jail. As Asad and relatives of the men watched, he said, three cars pulled up to the jail entrance. The men were brought outside, handcuffed and put into the cars.

"Where they were taken to is a mystery," Asad said. Last September, relatives were allowed to visit the men, but the family members were blindfolded en route. Relatives told Asad that the detainees were too sick to stand up.

In the case of Mohammed Amir, one of the four men who died while in custody, there was evidence of torture, Asad said. Drill holes were found in one of his knees and in his torso and back.

The body of another man who died, Abdul Saboor, was found by relatives Jan. 20 in an otherwise empty ambulance parked at a gas station in the northwestern city of Peshawar, said Abdul Baes, who is a brother of both Saboor and Majeed as well as a second surviving detainee, Abdul Basit.

On Jan. 31, Pakistani authorities allowed Baes a five-minute visit with Majeed and Basit at a hospital in Peshawar. "When I saw them, there seemed to be no flesh on their bones," Baes said. "They were in a very terrible state."

Basit, who had weighed 176 pounds before being abducted, was down to 74 pounds, Baes said. His left leg was severely weakened. When Baes asked the men about what happened during their detention, he said they pointed to what they perceived were intelligence officials at their bedsides.

Baes said Saboor, Basit and Majeed all worked at a firm that publishes editions of the Koran. They are from Kohat, a town perched on the edge of Pakistan's tribal areas that serve as a stronghold for a host of militant groups. The lawyer said the cases built against them were fabricated.

At Monday's hearing, relatives sobbed as they embraced the men. Rohaifa, the brothers' mother, stood up in court and told Chaudhry, "You can see how they have tortured my sons!"

Outside the courtroom, Basit, 26, talked about his ordeal.

"We have faced so much suffering, so many hardships," Basit said. "The mental torture was the worst. But we got through it."

On Tuesday, the brothers faced more misery, Asad said. A day after seeing her two ailing sons in court, Rohaifa died of a heart attack.

alex.rodriguez@latimes.com

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