Karachi: A Pakistani anti-terrorism court on Friday sentenced to death a soldier who shot dead an unarmed young man in the southern city of Karachi, an incident that was caught on videotape and broadcast widely on TV, shocking the public.
Five other soldiers and a civilian who were also charged in the case were given life sentences. All were convicted of murder.
The verdicts appeared to be a relatively rare instance of Pakistani security forces being held publicly accountable in a case of troop brutality. The Pakistani military establishment is still reeling from a string of other humiliations including the unilateral US raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
Sarfraz Shah, 18, was shot on June 08 after being detained by a group of Pakistani Rangers.
Video of the incident showed a man in civilian clothes wrestling a gun out of Shah`s hand and kicking him toward the uniformed security troops. Shah said it was just a toy gun as he pleaded with a Ranger who pointed his rifle at his neck.
At one point, he moved toward one of the Rangers with his arms outstretched, but he was pushed back, then shot twice in the hand and leg. While on the ground, he begged the Rangers to take him to a hospital, but they stood by as he writhed in an expanding pool of blood.
Shah was eventually taken to a local hospital and died shortly thereafter from blood loss.
Pakistani security forces are often accused of using excessive force and killing unarmed civilians, typically those suspected of being criminals or militants. The criminal justice system in Pakistan is inefficient and conviction rates are very low, meaning officers sometimes kill suspects rather than try to prosecute them, human rights activists say.
But Shah`s killing drew a huge amount of public fury, and the suspects in the case were quickly arrested and put on trial on murder and terrorism charges. Terrorism is somewhat vaguely defined in Pakistani law, and often is a charge lodged against suspects to get them into anti-terror courts.
The actual trial process was closed to the media, but on Friday, in a short statement before announcing the sentences, Judge Bashir Khosro said the men`s guilt in the murder charge "has been proven." He did not mention any verdict in the terrorism charges.
Although Pakistan has the death penalty, it rarely carries out the punishment. Life sentences also are usually just 15 years.