ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday provisionally approved military court trials of over 100 supporters of former prime minister Imran Khan on charges of attacking army installations.
A six-member panel of the top court overturned an Oct. 23 order by a three-member Supreme Court panel that had declared military trials of civilians to be unconstitutional, suspending all proceedings.
Trial proceedings will continue, said Justice Tariq Masood, the head of the six-member panel, according to a Reuters reporter present in the courtroom.
The six-member panel, however, barred military courts from issuing any convictions pending a final verdict on the constitutional question of whether civilians in such cases fall into the category of fitness for military trials.
The panel will issue a detailed written order later.
The government, which had said it would use military courts to try the suspects, sparking fears for fair legal process, had filed appeals against the Oct. 23 ruling.
Hundreds of Khan supporters stormed military and government installations and an air base and also torched a general’s house on May 9, following the former premier’s brief arrest by paramilitary soldiers. Khan had accused the military of being behind an attempt to assassinate him.
The military denied this and said that the assaults against its bases were planned and ordered by leaders of Khan’s party to stir up political unrest and force early elections following his ouster in a parliamentary no-confidence vote.
Local and global rights groups have expressed concerns over the military trials, saying such courts do not have the same standards of evidence and due process as civilian courts.
Pakistan’s Army Act of 1952 established military courts primarily to try members of the military or enemies of the state, and they operate under a separate legal system.
(Reporting by Asif Shahzad)