Supporters of Pakistan's former Prime Minister Imran Khan shout slogans during a protest against his arrest, in Peshawar, Pakistan, 09 May 2023. EFE-EPA/BILAWAL ARBAB

Pakistan’s top court cancels military trials of civilians arrested over May 9 riots

Islamabad, Oct 23 (EFE).- Pakistan’s Supreme Court Monday declared the military trials of civilians arrested during violent protests on May 9 to be null and void.

Rangers stand guard as Pakistan's former Prime Minister and head of opposition party Imran Khan arrives at high court in Islamabad, Pakistan 09 May 2023. EFE-EPA/SOHAIL SHAHZAD 15721

The decision was announced by a five-member bench headed by Justice Ijazul Ahsan.

On May 9, military installations, including the general headquarters in Rawalpindi, were targeted following the arrest of former Prime Minister Imran Khan in a graft case.

Violent protesters stormed military buildings, including setting the top military commander’s house on fire in Lahore.

An office of the premier spy agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), in Faisalabad, was also attacked.

More than 100 persons were taken into custody for their alleged involvement in the violent protests and military trials against them had already begun.

“The court has declared military trials of civilians who were arrested in relation to May 9 attacks null and void,” Inshtiaq Ahmed, a judicial official at the Supreme Court, told EFE.

In June, Attorney General Mansoor Usman Awan informed the top court that the arrested 102 people were in the army’s custody.

Following the May 9 violence, the National Assembly, Pakistan’s lower house of parliament, passed a resolution demanding that the rioters be tried under the Army Act.

More than a dozen petitions were filed in the apex court challenging the trials of civilians in military courts.

The petitioners argued that various sections of the Army Act were inconsistent with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Constitution.

Military courts are established under the Pakistan Army Act, of 1952, and only serving army officers sit as judges in these courts.

The courts operate outside the normal judicial structure and are not bound by the country’s general criminal code and the law of evidence.

Human rights groups and several politicians have criticized the trials of civilians in military courts, warning that it would undermine civilian supremacy. EFE