Christian Massacre Survivor Set Free in Karachi
Sindh Chief Justice to Hear Contempt Case Against Police

by Barbara G. Baker

ISTANBUL, October 24 (Compass) Forty-eight hours after Karachi police 
abducted Robin Peranditta from the grounds of the Sindh High Court, the 
traumatized survivor of last month s deadly Christian massacre is now 
confirmed to be released from police custody.

Robin Peranditta, 27, met this afternoon in an undisclosed location with 
two individuals who finally secured his release after four weeks in 
unlawful police custody.

We just met with Robin, his lawyer Noor Naz Agha told Compass by telephone 
from Karachi, and he hugged us saying, You saved my life!  The private 
meeting was arranged by Joseph Francis, coordinator of the Lahore-based 
Center for Legal Aid Assistance and Settlement (CLAAS), and a joint 
petitioner with Elizabeth Peranditta for her husband s release.

Although the Sindh High Court ruled two days ago that Peranditta s 
detention had been illegal and ordered his immediate release, a contingent 
of police from the Criminal Investigation Agency (CIA) surrounded him after 
the Tuesday hearing and  forcibly re-arrested him on the stairs of the 
court building. In the process, the Daily Times reported the next morning, 
The police beat up and abused his lawyers when they tried to prevent their 
client being taken away.

The detainee s lawyers immediately filed a legal protest, accusing the 
police of contempt of court for defying the release order. When the state 
counsel tried to oppose the petition, Dawn newspaper reported, Justice 
Sabihuddin Ahmed declared, "Senior lawyers have come to our chambers with 
torn shirts after the incident. What are you trying to defend?"

According to court findings made public at Tuesday s hearing, the Christian 
detainee had suffered severe physical and mental torture during his four 
weeks at the CIA s Saddar center in Karachi.

Peranditta was working as a watchman and errand boy for the Institute of 
Peace and Justice (IPJ) when its downtown Karachi offices were attacked by 
unidentified terrorists on September 25.  Seven of his Christian co-workers 
were shot and killed in the raid, with an eighth still recovering from 
critical head injuries. Although reportedly beaten by the attackers, 
Peranditta was not shot, a factor police investigators said cast suspicion 
on his innocence.

Shortly after re-arresting Peranditta, police officers told the press that 
he had been arrested on charges of complicity in the case. We have formally 
arrested him as a suspect in the murder of seven Christians, police 
investigator Manzoor Mughal told the Agence France Press.

His arrest was confirmed publicly by CIA chief Fayaz Leghari, who then 
declared a few hours later that Peranditta had been released after 
documentary proceedings. We did not have enough evidence to keep him in 
custody, Leghari admitted. The official said he had been dropped at his 
residence late Tuesday night.

But Peranditta s whereabouts remained uncertain all day Wednesday when his 
wife and family declared they had not seen him at all, causing them to fear 
for his life.

This morning the lawyers contempt of court petition was accepted by the 
court, which ordered that the charges against Deputy Superintendent of 
Police Qasim Ghori and Inspector Tasarrud Mehmood of the CIA Center in 
Saddar be heard before the Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court. The 
hearing is expected to be held within the next week, Agha said.

Married with four children, Peranditta has still not been reunited with his 
wife, Elizabeth, who for security reasons is staying in a separate safe house.

According to Agha, Peranditta s wife and extended family have been 
threatened during the past few days by police officials, demanding that the 
petition for the detained Christian s release be withdrawn. How can she 
withdraw her petition? demanded Agha. The case has been decided now. This 
is contempt for what the court has decided!

The entire episode reeks of police high-handedness, commented Dawn 
newspaper in a sharp editorial today. There can be no excuse for holding 
Mr. Ditta . . . in detention without any lawful authority and subjecting 
him to third-degree methods.

Today s Daily Times reported that police have recorded the initial 
statement of a second survivor, Robin Shareef, who has now regained 
consciousness after brain surgery at Karachi s Agha Khan Hospital. However, 
police officials admitted that Shareef, who is the only other eyewitness of 
the September 25 attack, cannot sustain the pressure of detailed 
interrogation yet.

According to an IPJ source, police resisted plans for Shareef to be 
transferred out of the hospital today to a secure, undisclosed location 
where private guards have been arranged for him.  Although Shareef was 
declared medically fit for discharge several days ago, only today could a 
place be found willing to shelter him while he recuperates. Other locations 
refused reluctantly, citing fears of an attack by the terrorists who killed 
his colleagues, as well as the shadow of ongoing police involvement in his 
case.

Karachi investigators have so far failed to identify the perpetrators of 
the September 25 massacre. It was the fifth anti-Christian assault in 
Pakistan since last October, when radical Islamists began targeting 
Christians in retaliation for President Pervaiz Musharraf s support for the 
U.S. war on terrorism. A total of 39 people have been killed and 75 injured 
in the attacks on Christian churches and institutions.

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