SHC sets aside conviction of five in Perween Rahman murder case.

KARACHI -- Giving them the benefit of doubt, the Sindh High Court on Monday overturned the conviction of five men in the Perween Rahman murder case and ruled that the case did not fall within the ambit of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) of 1997.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Mohammad Karim Khan Agha and Justice Zulfiqar Ali Sang observed that the court found no evidence that the appellants hatched a conspiracy to assassinate Ms Rahman, the director of the Orangi Pilot Project (OPP), in 2013.

Ms Rahman was gunned down near her office on Manghopir Road on March 13, 2013. In December 2021, an antiterrorism court had sentenced four men - Rahim Swati, Amjad Hussain Khan, Ayaz Ali alias Swati and Ahmed Khan alias Pappu Kashmiri - to life imprisonment and handed down seven-year imprisonment to the fifth man, Imran Swati, the son of Rahim Swati.

The trial court found them guilty of facilitating, aiding and abetting outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) militants for the murder of the rights activist.

In its verdict, the bench observed that no motive for the killing had been asserted in the FIR, but interview of Ms Rehman, statement of complainant Aquila Ismail, a sister of the deceased, as well as submissions of her counsel and prosecutor had established that land grabbers had threatened the victim since they wanted to grab the land of the OPP.

'We find that the object, intent, purpose and design of the murder of the deceased was not to create terror but rather grab some of the land of the OPP and as such this case did not fall within the purview of the ATA and as such all the appellant were acquitted of any offence under the ATA in the impugned judgment,' the verdict added.

About the confession of Rahim Swati before a police officer, the bench stated in the judgement that the confession was recorded under Section 21-H (conditional admissibility of confession) of the ATA and such provision only applied for the offences of terrorism and for the offences of the Pakistan Penal Code a judicial confession can only be recorded under Section 164 of the criminal procedure code by a judicial magistrate where all relevant legal safeguards must be observed.

It noted that most of the appellants, who were shown arrested in the present case when they were already in police custody, confessed to their involvement despite the fact that there was no evidence against them at the time of detention. None of them were brought before a judicial magistrate to...

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