- Military tribunal gave bail to 5 armymen indicted in Machil encounter
- The tribunal said it can't be ruled out that the dead men were terrorists
- The dead men wore pathan suits, usually worn by terrorists, it said
The tribunal said it cannot be ruled out that the dead men were terrorists who infiltrated across the border or were crossing over to the other side since they were wearing pathan suits which, it said, are usually worn by terrorists.
"If a person is a civilian, he would certainly not be in combat uniform, much less he would carry the firearm and ammunition with him," the judgment said. The tribunal also said the alleged encounter had taken place near Sona Pindi Gali, an area close to the Line of Control. "There was absolutely no justification for a civilian to be present at such a forward formation near LoC, that too during the night when the infiltration from across the border was high," the tribunal had added.
The verdict has drawn a sharp response from former Chief Minister Omar Abdullah, who tweeted:
"They wore Pathan suits, which are worn by terrorists.....". What an unbelievably scary justification. You can be killed for what you wear! https://t.co/W9cYVEM7fN- Omar Abdullah (@abdullah_omar) July 29, 2017
"We are not satisfied with the verdict," said Naseema, the mother of Riyaz Ahmad Lone, one of the men killed in the encounter. "We don't see any justice in the verdict," added Zahida, the mother of Mohammad Shafi Lone.
On April 30, 2010, the army said three infiltrators from Pakistan were killed in Machil sector. An investigation by the police later revealed the men were Kashmiris from poor families, who lived in Nadihal, Baramulla.
The bodies were exhumed and they were identified as Shahzad Ahmad Khan, Riyaz Ahmad Lone and Muhammad Shafi Lone, who had gone missing on April 27. Their families claimed the men were lured to a border area by the army with promises of jobs and money.
The case had triggered a two-month-long agitation in Kashmir Valley in which over 120 people were killed in police firing. Four years later, the soldiers were found guilty of conspiracy and murder. They were sentenced to a life term in jail and their service benefits were suspended.
Aman Lekhi, the senior lawyer appearing for Colonel Dinesh Pathania, the senior officer commanding the men at the time of the alleged fake encounter, said, "It is a vindication of Colonel Pathania's reputation, because I personally think his being made an accused is completely unwarranted."
"We have been able to persuade the court that the case, as has been presented, has gaping holes in it and doesn't make a clear or convincing story from which you can reasonably infer any guilt on Colonel Pathania to warrant his continued incarceration," he added.