Pakistani officers jailed for banned links

Aug. 6, 2012 at 6:30 AM
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LAHORE, Pakistan, Aug. 6 (UPI) -- A Pakistani military court sentenced five military officers, including a brigadier, to jail term of up to five years for links to a banned Islamic organization.

Brig. Gen. Ali Khan was given a 5-year jail sentence while the other officers -- all majors -- received sentences of 18 months to three years.

Although the suspects were found guilty, the military has remained silent on the subject of which organization the officers allegedly had had links, a report by The Nation newspaper said.

The other officers convicted to "rigorous imprisonment" are Sohail Akbar, who was sentenced to three years, two years to Jawad Baseer and 18 months each to Inayat Aziz and another major called Iftikhar.

"All five accused have been convicted ... for having links with a proscribed organization," the military's news agency Inter Services Public Relations said.

The five army officers were detained by military intelligence agencies last year after months of surveillance amid suspicions that they had direct links to the Sunni Muslim group Hizb ut-Tahrir, a banned organisation in Pakistan, The Nation report said.

Hizb-ut-Tahrir deputy spokesman Imran Yousufzai wouldn't confirm that the organization was the group connected with the trial, The Nation said.

"As policy, we neither confirm nor deny such news," he said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir was banned in 2003 by former President Pervez Musharraf, who said the organization was connected with planned attempts to assassinate him, The Nation said.

The sentence for Khan, 60, comes at the end of a long military career. His father and brothers have been in the military and he has a brother who is a colonel in military intelligence. One of his sons and a son-in-law are army officers.

Kahn's last posting was to the Regulation Directorate at General Headquarters in Rawalpindi near Islamabad in May 2009.

He later reportedly came under the surveillance of Inter-Services Intelligence and Military Intelligence and was picked up at his home in May last year.

His arrest came a month before he was to retire and just four days after the U.S. attack that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who was living in the garrison town of Abbottabad.

Khan had been highly critical of the Pakistani army command over its relationship with the United States, a report by the BBC said.

In his statement to the court, he said was being victimized for criticizing Pakistani officers for allowing Osama bin Laden to live in Pakistan and then allowing the United States to launch an attack to kill him, the BBC said.

Hizb ut-Tahrir, founded in Jerusalem in 1953 and with a strong U.K. presence, clandestinely dropped pamphlets in military cantonments after the bin Laden raid, The Wall Street Journal reported after Khan's arrest.

The pamphlets called for the establishment of an Islamic caliphate and urged soldiers to rise against military leaders who allowed the U.S. operation against bin Laden.

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