Karachi Police Abduct Eyewitness
Detained Christian Dragged Off Court Premises After Release
by Barbara G. Baker ISTANBUL, October 22 (Compass) -- Karachi police authorities forcibly abducted an eyewitness survivor of last month s deadly Christian welfare agency massacre from the premises of the Sindh High Court today, minutes after the court had ordered his release from illegal police detention. Robin Peranditta, 27, was the only eyewitness not shot during the September 25 attack against the Institute for Peace and Justice (IPJ) offices in central Karachi where he worked. He has been held in police protective custody ever since the attack, in which seven Christians were shot to death and another was critically wounded. When he appeared today before a division bench of the Sindh High Court, Peranditta could barely walk, observers in the courtroom told Compass. He appeared visibly shaken and scared, reported the Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), a Christian advocacy group which filed a constitutional petition for his release on October 4. He didn t say a word in the court, one observer noted. According to a court-ordered report submitted at today s hearing by Nazir Moinuddin Ahmad, the detained Christian has suffered severe physical and mental torture while in the custody of the Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA). On October 8, the Sindh High Court had extended Peranditta s detention until today to allow security police time to complete investigations into the unsolved attack. Today s edition of The News reported that Ahmad had examined Peranditta yesterday at the CIA Center in Karachi s Saddar district. The examiner said he found blue patches around Robin s eyes, buttocks and at the back of his hands. He was highly afraid, was under severe tension and even could not walk easily, while his health had also declined considerably, the report concluded. The court took serious note of this, Peranditta s lawyer Noor Naz Agha told Compass by telephone from Karachi. At the close of the hearing, the two judges ruled that Peranditta s detention had been illegal, canceling his arrest orders and ordering him set free immediately. But while we were going down the stairs, Agha said, the police surrounded us suddenly, beating us and forcibly taking away Robin. Agha and three other lawyers in the case were injured when the police hit and shoved them, she said. Agha said that CLAAS coordinator Joseph Francis, the legal petitioner on Peranditta s behalf, was threatened and cursed by a police officer during the skirmish. Joseph was trying to save Robin, saying to them, How can you take him? You can t do this, the court order doesn t permit it! Agha said. The order is our foot! one of the officers shouted back, the lawyer said. So they were kicking Robin as they took him into custody, she said. According to a Catholic cleric who attended the hearing and saw the police action, the whole incident took place right in front of the press and the lawyers and all who were present there. They were so violent, they were beating him and kicking him and pushing him along. Agha said she had informed the presiding justice of the abduction, which occurred about 3 p.m. I didn t go to my office afterwards, she admitted, because I am afraid that they can do anything to me, and to Joseph, too. Thank God that we were on the court premises at that time, or otherwise they could have done anything they liked to us. In response to an application she will file as soon as the court opens tomorrow morning, the police will be required to give an immediate explanation for defying the court order to release her client. I am so afraid for Robin, she admitted. The police didn t have the right to take him, but they have done it. And I am afraid that they might kill him. Meanwhile, Peranditta s colleague, Robin Shareef, has survived a bullet wound to his head and is still recovering at Karachi s Agha Khan Hospital. Age 24 and unmarried, Shareef worked as a librarian and receptionist in the IJP offices. Although he remains paralyzed on his left side, his doctors reportedly believe he will gradually regain the ability to walk. He still does not know that seven of his co-workers died in the September 25 attack. According to a source close to the IPJ, the agency s offices are still sealed by government order. We cannot even get out our letterhead stationery, the source said. And until today, the government has not come up with anything, he said, in regard to promised compensation to the families of the seven murdered men, all married with children. Church sources in Karachi confirmed to Compass that two young Christian neighbors of Peranditta were arrested about 10 days ago, as reported in Urdu-language newspapers, allegedly on suspicions of complicity in the attack. We are also trying to get them out of police custody, the source said, because they are also innocent, and not involved at all.
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