Court confirms lifer to 6 soldiers

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Machil fake encounter

SRINAGAR: Army’s court Martial on Monday confirmed the life sentences of six army personnel including two army officers in the 2010 Machil fake encounter.

Army’s Northern Command spokesperson said six army soldiers including two officers namely Col Dinesh Pathania, Captain Opendra, Havaldar Devender Kumar, Lance Naik Lakhmi, Lance naik Arun Kumar and rifleman Abas Hussain have been awarded life imprisonment.

The Army Court had last year awarded life sentences to them for their involvement in the killing of three innocents from Nadihal in a fake encounter in Machil five years ago. This is the first case in the Valley in which Indian Army personnel have been awarded life terms on these charges.

On April 29, 2010, Shezad Ahmad, Riyaz Ahmad and Mohammad Shafi from Nadihal village of Baramulla were lured by two local counter-insurgency agents — Bashir Ahmad Lone and Abdul Hamid — and a Territorial Army soldier Abbas Hussain Shah to Kalaroos village in the Machil sector near the LoC. The three, who were promised jobs as porters and “good money”, were then killed by the soldiers near the Sona Pindi post and dubbed as “Pakistani terrorists”.

The victims’ real identities were revealed a month later when their bodies were exhumed following a massive protest. The state government then constituted a high-level inquiry commission to probe the killings but its report was never made public. The killings, meanwhile, sparked widespread unrest in the Valley in which 123 people were killed.

Soon after the incident, the Army removed Colonel Pathania from the post of Commanding Officer while Major Opendra was suspended after an internal inquiry.

The army initiated court martial proceedings in December 2013 based on the findings of a court of inquiry report that was submitted by the then Commander of 68 Mountain Brigade Brigadier G S Sangah.

The probe was set up following a notice issued by the Sopore Chief Judicial Magistrate based on a chargesheet filed by local police against 11 persons including nine Army officials and two civilians who were charged under Sections 302 (murder), 364 (abduction), 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 34 (common intent) of the Ranbir Penal Code (RPC).

In April 2013, the CJM had handed over custody of the Territorial Army’s Abbas Hussain Shah to the Army for recording evidence.

Soon after army court awarded life sentence to the soldiers, Amnesty International had applauded the sentences, but had called for allegations of human rights abuses to be probed by civilian courts instead of the army itself.

“For justice to be the rule and not the exception, all cases of human rights violations should be investigated and prosecuted by independent civilian authorities,” Amnesty India programmes director had said.  (GNS)

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