Pakistan’s spy agency ISI faces court over disappearances

The Guardian reports: Pakistan’s all-powerful military will this week face a rare challenge by the courts over the case of 11 men who were allegedly abducted and tortured by the Inter-Services Intelligence spy agency.

The case, due to be heard on Friday, will offer a window into the workings of the ISI and its sister agency, Military Intelligence, and charges that they have made hundreds of Pakistanis disappear.

Four of the 11 men kidnapped from the high security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi in May 2010 have turned up dead in recent months. The families of the rest are petitioning the court for their return. Although apparently terrorist suspects, they have not been charged with any crime.

Before the hearing, the military stated in a written response to the court that they would not bring the remaining men before the judges, as had been ordered by the court, arguing that some were in such poor health that they could not be produced. Critics said this only confirmed the allegations of mistreatment.

The case is also a test for the supreme court, which is accused of pursuing a single-minded campaign against President Asif Zardari and his government, an agenda that plays into the hands of the military.

“This is a historic case. It is the first time the ISI has confessed to holding people,” said Amina Janjua, chairperson of Defence of Human Rights, a group that campaigns for Pakistan’s disappeared. “The courts are nothing in front of the agencies. The agencies think they are the masters. The ones who were killed did not die natural deaths. Their bodies were blue and black.”

The intelligence agencies are allegedly responsible for over 1,000 disappearances since 2001, of whom about 500 are still missing, while in the western province of Baluchistan, dumped bodies of dissidents are regularly found.

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