Pakistan army courts sentence nine militants to death

Pakistan began its operation to clear Taliban and Al-Qaeda strongholds in North Waziristan in 2014, and claims to have killed more than 3,750 militants since then with no civilian casualties (AFP Photo/Aamir Qureshi) (AFP/File)

Pakistan military courts have sentenced nine men to death for terrorism-related offences or attacks on minority Shiites, the army said Friday.

Pakistan has hanged more than 300 people since lifting a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, many of them convicted in closed military courts which critics say fail to meet fair trial standards.

"Today, (the) Chief of Army Staff confirmed death sentences (were) awarded to another nine hardcore terrorists, who were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism," an army statement said.

They include Muhammad Ghauri, a Pakistani Taliban member linked to an attack on a garrison mosque in Rawalpindi which killed 38 people and injured 57 in December 2009.

Also sentenced were Harkatul Jehad-e-Islam activist Abdul Qayyum, who was linked to a car bomb suicide attack on the Inter Services Intelligence headquarters in the central city of Multan which killed seven people and wounded 72 in December 2009.

Two others were linked to attacks on soldiers, while five were said to be members of the Sunni sectarian outfit Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan who had killed five Shiites in the eastern city of Lahore.

Their trials took place behind closed doors, with no information on where or when they were held, how proceedings unfolded and scant details about their crimes.

Pakistan has been battling a homegrown Islamist insurgency for over a decade following its decision to side with the US-led coalition against the Taliban in Afghanistan.

Its troops have been engaged in a full-scale offensive against Taliban and other militants in North Waziristan and Khyber tribal districts since June 2014.

The fight gained renewed impetus following a massacre at a Peshawar school in December 2014 in which 134 children were killed, leading to widespread outrage and a series of measures aimed at combating terror.

After the school attack the government ended a six-year moratorium on executions -- initially only for people convicted of terrorism but later for all capital offences.

Pakistan also amended its constitution to allow military courts to try terror suspects for a two-year period.

Supporters of the courts say cases previously dragged on for years and many suspects escaped punishment due to legal loopholes or intimidation of witnesses.

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