Pakistan: Human rights activist held for speaking out against military

New Delhi: Following a secret trial, a military court in Pakistan has convicted human rights activist Idris Khattak of espionage and leaking sensitive information to a foreign intelligence agency, sentencing him to 14 years in prison, his family and lawyer say. His whereabouts are still unknown, Radio Mashaal reported.

Rights activists suggest Khattak was arrested because he spoke out against the arbitrary detentions and forced disappearances committed by the military, which has an oversized role in domestic and foreign affairs, the report said.

Khattak spent years compiling a list of the victims of enforced disappearances in the tribal belt in northwestern Pakistan, home to the country’s largest ethnic minority, the Pashtuns. Khattak himself is a Pashtun.

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Criticism of the army has long been seen as a red line, with activists and journalists complaining of intimidation tactics including kidnappings, beatings, and even killings if they cross that line, it added.

Authorities have not made the December 4 verdict public, leaving Khattak’s family in the dark over the exact status of his case and conviction.

“First they took my father and then they disappeared him,” Talia Khattak, the 21-year-old daughter of the rights defender said. “Now they have found him guilty but haven’t said what evidence they have against him”, Radio Mashaal reported.

She added that the family had not been notified of Khattak’s trial. His conviction was disclosed by a liaison army officer during a hasty phone call, she said, the report added.

“Without offering any details, they told me that my dad was found guilty of espionage,” she said, adding that she also did not receive any information from her father’s lawyer, the report said.

“We are very worried,” she added. “Fourteen years in prison means that my father would be 72 years old when he completes his sentence, if he stays healthy. He is diabetic and needs regular medical attention.”

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