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Muhammad Ismail denied bail and held in degrading prison conditions

Status: 
in Custody
About the situation

On 15 February 2021, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar denied the bail application submitted by human rights defender Muhammad Ismail, despite his post COVID-19 health situation.

On 8 February 2021, Muhammad Ismail was presented before the Anti-terrorism court in Peshawar. The hearing was adjourned until 15 February. His wife, Uzlifat Ismail, was exempted from attending further court sessions. The human rights defender’s lawyer has applied for bail in the High Court.

On 5 February 2021, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) police, raided Muhammad Ismail’s rented house in Islamabad.

On 4 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was taken bound in chains by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) to his ancestral home in Marghuz Village, Swabi District. The defender had been arrested on 2 February on charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy and under the Anti Terrorism Act of Pakistan. On 3 February he was remanded in CTD custody for three days.

On the morning of 4 February 2021, Muhammad Ismail’s wife, Uzlifat Ismail, visited the CTD police station in Peshawar with clothes and medication for him. She was informed that Muhammad Ismail was no longer in their custody, and given no further information regarding his whereabouts. Later that same day, the CTD brought Muhammad Ismail bound in chains to the family home. Officers searched the house, and confiscated mobile phones, including that of Uzlifat Ismail.

On 3 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar. The court ordered the human rights defender to spend three days in the custody of the Counter Terrorism Department.

On 2 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was arrested at the Anti-Terrorism Court-III in Peshawar, following the cancellation of his interim pre-arrest bail in a case lodged by the Counter-Terrorism Department.

On 2 July 2020, the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) in Peshawar acquitted woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail and her parents, Muhammad Ismail and Uzlifat Ismail, of charges related to financial terrorism.

On 20 April 2020, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was summoned for a court hearing after the Federal Investigation agency filed an appeal at the Peshawar High Court to revoke the conditional bail that was granted to the defender on 25 November 2019.

On 25 November 2019, the Peshawar High Court granted conditional bail to Muhammad Ismail, the father of woman human rights defender, Gulalai Ismail. On 24 October 2019 Muhammad Ismail was abducted by a group of unidentified individuals, who were later identified as members of the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing in Peshawar.

On 24 October 2019, Muhammad Ismail, the father of Pakistani woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail, was abducted by a group of unidentified men as he was leaving the Peshawar High Court.

About Muhammad Ismail

Muhammad Ismail is a well known human rights defender in Pakistan, and has been critical of human rights violations in the country, particularly the treatment of his daughter, Gulalai Ismail, by the State apparatus.

15 February 2021
Muhammad Ismail denied bail

On 15 February 2021, the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar denied the bail application submitted by human rights defender Muhammad Ismail, despite his post COVID-19 health situation.

He is being held in a cell with over sixty other people, forced to sleep on the floor despite having severe medical conditions His age, medical conditions and the fact that he is still recovering from COVID-19 further increase his suffering and health risk.

9 February 2021
Muhammad Ismail held in degrading prison conditions and house raided

On 8 February 2021, Muhammad Ismail was presented before the Anti-terrorism court in Peshawar. The hearing was adjourned until 15 February. His wife, Uzlifat Ismail, was exempted from attending further court sessions. The human rights defender’s lawyer has applied for bail in the High Court.

On 5 February 2021, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) police, raided Muhammad Ismail’s rented house in Islamabad. CTD officials seized seven files belonging to Aware Girls, an organisation founded by his daughter and woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail, that advocates for peace building and the rights of young women. The raid was conducted without a search warrant and no receipt was given for items seized.

Muhammad Ismail informed his family during a phone call about degrading conditions he faces in jail. The defender is being held in a cell with over sixty other people. He is forced to sleep on the floor despite having severe medical conditions and is not permitted to receive clothes or food from his family or the jail canteen. The human rights defender’s age, medical conditions and the fact that he is still recovering from COVID-19 further increase his suffering and health risk.

4 February 2021
Muhammad Ismail’s family home raided by Counter-terrorism department

On 4 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was taken bound in chains by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) to his ancestral home in Marghuz Village, Swabi District. The defender had been arrested on 2 February on charges of sedition, criminal conspiracy and under the Anti Terrorism Act of Pakistan. On 3 February he was remanded in CTD custody for three days.

On the morning of 4 February 2021, Muhammad Ismail’s wife, Uzlifat Ismail, visited the CTD police station in Peshawar with clothes and medication for him. She was informed that Muhammad Ismail was no longer in their custody, and given no further information regarding his whereabouts. Later that same day, the CTD brought Muhammad Ismail bound in chains to the family home. Officers searched the house, and confiscated mobile phones, including that of Uzlifat Ismail.

The officers were reportedly witnessed bringing papers and receipts into the house which they placed in a file and photographed. After the raid it was discovered that two laptop computers had been taken by the CTD without any official notice or receipt. Given the ongoing persecution and multiple cases filed against Muhammad Ismail, the family fears that this is yet another attempt to fabricate evidence against the defender and prolong his incarceration. Following the raid, Muhammad Ismail was taken away by the CTD.

Front Line Defenders believes that the actions taken against Muhammad Ismail are in reprisal forthe human rights work of his daughter, Gulalai Ismail, who was forced to flee Pakistan due to serious risk to her safety.

Front Line Defenders calls on the Pakistani authorities to put a stop to the persecution of Gulalai Ismail and her family, immediately release Muhammad Ismail, and in the interim ensure that his family and lawyers have unfettered access to him. In light of Muhammad Ismail’s poor health, the Pakistani authorities must also ensure that he is provided access to medical professionals and adequate t care while in custody.

3 February 2021
Muhammad Ismail sent to custody

On 3 February 2020, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was presented before the Anti-Terrorism Court in Peshawar. The court ordered the human rights defender to spend three days in the custody of the Counter Terrorism Department.

2 February 2021
Human rights defender Muhammad Ismail arrested

On 2 February 2021, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was arrested at the Anti-Terrorism Court-III in Peshawar, following the cancellation of his interim pre-arrest bail in a case lodged by the Counter-Terrorism Department. The First Information Report (FIR) brought against the defender charges him under Sections 11-N, 124-A, 120-B of the Pakistan Penal Code, which relate to sedition and criminal conspiracy, and 7(g)(i) of the Anti-terrorism Act of 1997. These charges carry heavy prison sentences. It is believed that Muhammad Ismail is currently in the custody of the Counter-Terrorism Department.

Muhammed Ismail is the Secretary-General of the Pakistan NGO Forum (PNF), an umbrella body of civil society organisations (CSOs) in Pakistan. He has been critical of human rights violations in the country, particularly the ill-treatment of his daughter, human rights defender Gulalai Ismail.

Muhammad Ismail has been the target of ongoing police and judicial harassment for over two years. The human rights defender’s prosecution is a reprisal for his work, and the human rights work of his daughter Gulalai Ismail – an outspoken critic of human rights abuses by Pakistani authorities. Gulalai Ismail was forced to flee Pakistan in September 2019 due to threats to her safety. Ever since, her family and colleagues in Pakistan have been targetted. Multiple FIRs have been filed against Muhammad Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, including on anti-terror charges. In October 2019 Muhammad Ismail was abducted by unidentified men from outside the Peshawar High Court. He was later found in the custody of the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crimes Unit. Muhammad Ismail and his wife have been placed on an exit control list preventing them from leaving Pakistan.

Despite being released on bail in at least one case, authorities have continued to to target him. The State has consistently objected to bail and sought to file new charges against the defender in an attempt to further harass him, despite his ill health. Muhammad Ismail contracted COVID-19 in late 2020 and has not fully recovered. He requires constant care and medical supervision, neither of which will be available in an overcrowded jail.

Front Line Defenders, along with other human rights organisations, has previously condemned the targetting of Muhammad Ismail. Front Line Defenders urges the authorities in Pakistan to immediately drop all charges and unconditionally release Muhammad Ismail, as it believes that the human rights defender is being targeted solely as a result of his legitimate and peaceful work in the defence of human rights. It urges the authorities to remove all restrictions on the free movement of Muhammad Ismail and his wife Uzlifat Ismail, and cease all further forms of harassment against the defender, as it is believed that these measures constitute a direct transgression of his rights.

24 April 2020
Federal Investigation Agency appeals to High Court to cancel conditional bail granted to Muhammad Ismail

On 20 April 2020, human rights defender Muhammad Ismail was summoned for a court hearing after the Federal Investigation agency filed an appeal at the Peshawar High Court to revoke the conditional bail that was granted to the defender on 25 November 2019.

Neither the defender or his lawyer were formally notified of the hearing, nor have they been given a reason for why the Court accepted the appeal to revoke the conditional bail. Muhammad Ismail was made aware of the hearing only after a fellow human rights defender got news of the court hearing and relayed the information to him. However, after reaching the Peshawar High Court on 20 April 2020, the defender was informed that the date for the hearing had been postponed. Muhammad Ismail and his lawyer are yet to be informed of the date for the next court hearing.

25 November 2019
Muhammad Ismail granted conditional bail

On 25 November 2019, the Peshawar High Court granted conditional bail to Muhammad Ismail, the father of woman human rights defender, Gulalai Ismail. On 24 October 2019 Muhammad Ismail was abducted by a group of unidentified individuals, who were later identified as members of the Federal Investigation Agency’s Cyber Crime Wing in Peshawar. He was taken into custody on the charge of “hate speech and spreading false information against Government institutions” under Section 10 and 11 of the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act, 2016. He was produced in court on 25 October 2019 and had been given fourteen days in judicial custody, which was further extended when his first bail application was rejected on 4 November 2019.

24 October 2019
Muhammad Ismail, father of woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail, abducted in Peshawar

On 24 October 2019, Muhammad Ismail, the father of Pakistani woman human rights defender Gulalai Ismail, was abducted by a group of unidentified men as he was leaving the Peshawar High Court. The family, supporters and colleagues of Gulalai Ismail have been subjected to relentless threats, intimidation and harassment by officers of the Pakistani Military and Intelligence service since 25 May 2019.

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Gulalai Ismail is an award-winning woman human rights defender and the co-founder of Aware Girls, who has been compelled to flee Pakistan after two First Information Reports (FIRs) were filed against her on 22 and 23 May 2019 by police in Islamabad. The FIRs accuse her of serious offenses including “sedition” under the Penal Code and Sections 6/7 of the regressive Anti-Terrorism Act.

Her father, Muhammad Ismail is a well known human rights defender in Pakistan, and has been critical of human rights violations in the country, particularly the treatment of his daughter by the State apparatus.

Front Line Defenders has previously issued an urgent appeal expressing its concern against the filing of false and baseless allegations against Gulalai Ismail and a further appeal condemning the threats against her family, especially her elderly parents and sister.

Since May 2019, the family home in Islamabad has been raided by armed military on at least four occasions. During these raids the officials questioned and harassed her parents, confiscated their mobile phones, and photographed Gulalai Ismail’s younger brother, without his consent. The family was placed under strict surveillance.

On 12 July 2019, an FIR was filed against Gulalai Ismail’s elderly parents by the Peshawar police, falsely alleging offences under the Anti-Terrorism Act. It is clear by the timing of the FIR that it is aimed at intimidating and silencing Gulalai Ismail in response to her human rights work. An application to quash the FIR is currently pending before the Peshawar High Court and a hearing on this case was scheduled on 24 October 2019.

On 24 October 2019, Muhammad Ismail traveled to the Peshawar High Court for the hearing, which had been routinely postponed. Muhammad Ismail parted company with his lawyer and was leaving the premises when he was abducted at around 3.30pm. According to eye witnesses he was accosted immediately outside the court premises by unidentified men dressed in black militia uniform. The men grabbed him and forced him into a black vehicle. Muhammad Ismail screamed to nearby witnesses that they inform his lawyer, who he could still see walking away in the distance.

Previously, on 18 October 2019, Muhammad Ismail survived an attempt to abduct him from his home in Islamabad. At around 1.45am, armed men, some in police uniform and others in civilian clothes with their faces hidden, arrived at their home, and ordered Muhammad Ismail to come out. Fearing for his safety, Muhammad Ismail refused to leave his home, and requested them to come back during the day time. The armed group remained outside his house for approximately an hour in a tense stand off until they eventually left the premises. Following this incident he was compelled to leave his home, fearing for his own safety.

Gulalai Ismail’s parents have also been informed unofficially that they have been placed on a Government Exit Control List (ECL), effectively preventing them from leaving the country. The couple never received any official notification of this, and only found out when an immigration official refused to renew Gulalai’s mother’s passport on the basis of a purported ECL.

Following the abduction, Muhammad Ismail’s family have unofficially received information that he is currently being held at the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cyber Crimes Unit. At the time of writing, the family have no official information regarding his whereabouts or the basis for his abduction .

Front Line Defenders is extremely concerned about the safety of Muhammad Ismail. It is also concerned for the safety of Gulalai Ismail’s mother.. Front Line Defenders condemns the ongoing harassment of Gulalai Ismail as it believes she is being targeted solely as a result of her legitimate work in defence of human rights.