ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistani military courts have convicted a prominent rights activist and three retired army officers on charges of espionage and sedition, sentencing them to prison terms ranging from 12 to 14 years, two security officials said Friday.
The four were tried in separate, unrelated cases. It was unclear when and where the proceedings against them took place, and the two security officers declined to confirm further details.
The activist, Idris Khattak, went missing while traveling in the country's northwest in 2019 in what later turned out to be a case of forced disappearance by Pakistani security agencies. For months, there was no information about him until authorities confirmed he was in custody.
According to the two security officials, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the cases with the media, Khattak was sentenced to 14 years.
The officials said Khattak was accused of sharing “sensitive and important information” with a hostile intelligence agency and other individuals that led to several U.S. drone strikes in recent years in Pakistan’s restive former tribal regions. They said Khattak was given the right to defend himself through a lawyer.
The three retired officers — colonels Faiz Rasool and Mohammad Akmal, and Saifullah Babar, a retired major — were given sentences of 14 years, 10 and 12 years, respectively. They were tried on “espionage charges, and collaborating with hostile intelligence agencies,” one of the security officials said.
Last month, Amnesty International urged Pakistan to stop forcibly disappearing suspected militants — and other suspects — for years without trial, calling the practice “abhorrent.” In a chilling report entitled “Living Ghosts,” the rights group describes the difficulties faced by the families of the disappeared in obtaining information about their detained relatives.
The activist's daughter, Talia Khattak, told the AP the family has not been notified of Khattak's trial or sentencing. She said she learned about it through social media, and did not receive “any such information from my father's lawyer."
Khattak's sentencing has drawn condemnation by human rights activists on social media, with several suggesting he was arrested because he spoke up against illegal detentions and forced disappearances.
Although Pakistani law prohibits detentions without court approval, officials have privately conceded that intelligence agencies are holding an unspecified number of suspects at detention facilities.