India approaches Pakistan court for release of four prisoners

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The Indian mission in Pakistan has approached the Islamabad high court seeking the release of four Indian prisoners who were convicted by military courts and have completed their sentences.

The writ petition—which was filed in the high court by Aparna Ray, first secretary in the Indian mission, through three Pakistani advocates—identified the prisoners as Birju Dung Dung, Vigyan Kumar, Satish Bhog and Sonu Singh and said they were currently being held in jails in Lahore and Karachi.

All the prisoners have served the sentences given to them by field general courts martial of the Pakistani military—Dung in 2007, Singh in 2012, Kumar in 2014 and Bhog in 2015, the petition said.

The petition, which named Pakistan’s foreign and interior secretaries as respondents, said the prisoners were arrested by the Pakistani military and charged under the Pakistan Army Act and Official Secrets Act. It further said the prisoners had contended that they hadn’t committed any offence and “the entire proceedings initiated from the arrest till culmination in the ultimate conviction are an abuse of the process of law”.

The petition also pointed out that Pakistan’s Constitution states that no person “shall be deprived of life or liberty in accordance with the law” and asked the high court to facilitate the release of the prisoners.

The Indian mission noted in the petition that it had formally written to Pakistan’s Foreign Office on May 18 to remind authorities that the matter of releasing these four prisoners had been taken up through 31 notes verbale or unsigned diplomatic correspondence between October 2019 and May 2020. The communication stated that the nationality of the prisoners too had been confirmed.

“The esteemed ministry is requested that these four confirmed Indian prisoners may kindly be released and repatriated at the earliest,” the communication had said.

India and Pakistan currently have hundreds of each other’s nationals in their jails, a majority of them fishermen arrested for straying across the maritime boundary. Work on identifying and releasing these prisoners through a joint judicial commission has been hit by the troubled bilateral relations in recent years.

Besides exchanging lists of prisoners on two occasions every year, the two sides have not been able to make headway on proposed measures to speed up the release and repatriation of prisoners.

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