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Indian imprisoned in Pak seeks remission, says wasn’t involved in spying

Hamid Nehal Ansari, an IT engineer from Mumbai, travelled to Afghanistan five years ago in order to illegally enter Pakistan, reportedly to meet a woman he had befriended online.

world Updated: Nov 01, 2017 20:54 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times, Islamabad
Hamid Nehal Ansari,Pakistan,military court
Hamid Ansari’s parents showing his picture in Mumbai.(File)

Indian national Hamid Nehal Ansari, given a three-year jail term by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage, filed a petition in the Peshawar high court on Wednesday asking that he not be treated as a spy as he was not involved in any anti-state activities.

Ansari also sought remission of his sentence in the petition filed on his behalf by senior lawyer Qazi Muhammad Anwar.

The petition stated that although Ansari was not found involved in any anti-state activities, he had entered Pakistan without proper documents. It said he therefore has the right of remission in his sentence after spending years in detention.

A two-judge bench of the high court led by Chief Justice Yahya Afridi directed the defence and interior ministries and the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government to submit their replies to the petition.

The case of Ansari, an IT engineer from Mumbai, has seen many twists and turns since he travelled to Afghanistan five years ago in order to illegally enter Pakistan, reportedly to meet a woman he had befriended online.

Days after he sneaked into northwest Pakistan, he was detained by police at Kohat in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province and handed over to intelligence agencies. However, his detention was never officially acknowledged.

After Pakistani rights activists took up his case in the Peshawar high court, police admitted in January 2016 that he had been detained.

Ansari was tried by the military court behind closed doors and given three years rigorous imprisonment, with the sentence starting on December 15, 2015 and ending on December 14, 2018.

“He (Ansari) cannot be granted the benefits of 382-B of CrPC since the word ‘anti-state activities’ is written on his jail warrants,” the petition said.

“If the remission is refused,” it added, “on the basis of endorsement of anti-state activities, the petitioner has the right to know all the details of his involvement in such activities.”

Ansari said in the petition that an investigation had established he was not a spy but had only illegally entered Pakistan.

Referring to his plans to meet the woman he had befriended on social media, the petition said: “Even the fake (identity card) with the name of Hamza was arranged for him by his host who invited him to Kohat.”

Ansari was 27 years old when he was arrested from a hotel in Kohat. He had travelled to Kabul on a tourist visa and then went to Jalalabad to enter Pakistan. For almost three years, his family was clueless about his whereabouts.

Ansari acknowledged in his petition that he had committed a mistake by entering Pakistan without valid documents but appealed to the court that he had the right to be treated in accordance with Pakistan’s prison rules on remission of sentence.

He requested the court to change the words “anti-state activities” to “illegal activities” on his warrants, and to direct prison authorities to allow him remission with effect from December 15, 2015 and decide about his release date.

Ansari had also filed a petition in the Peshawar high court in 2016 for fair treatment in jail, following which the court directed authorities to treat him well by providing visitation rights and health facilities.

He was shifted to a prison in Mardan after he was attacked several times in the jail in Peshawar. Pakistani authorities have turned down more than 30 requests from India for consular access to Ansari.

First Published: Nov 01, 2017 20:27 IST