PESHAWAR: A provincial high court in northwest Pakistan has ordered the release of 200 prisoners convicted by the controversial military courts on different charges of terrorism.
A two-member bench of the Peshawar High Court headed by Chief Justice Waqar Seth and Justice Naeem Anwar declared null and void the sentences given to the 200 accused and ordered their release.
The convicts were handed down death sentences, life imprisonments and ten-year jail terms by the military courts.
The bench in a short judgement stated that the sentences were given on confessional statements and no opportunity of a fair trial was extended to the accused.
The court also sought record of 100 more prisoners convicted by the military courts.
The counsels for prosecution maintained that their clients were not given a fair opportunity to defend their cases in the military courts and were kept for five to ten years in illegal confinement.
They said there was no solid evidence against their clients and the military courts had no jurisdiction to give sentences to the accused.
The controversial military courts were set up in Pakistan in January 2015 after a Taliban attack on an army school killed 150 people, mostly children.
The court's tenure, initially set up for two years, expired on January 7, 2017.
After that, the Pakistani government was trying to convince the opposition for another two years term for the speedy trial of hardcore terrorists as they played an extremely important role to combat extremism.
The new laws provide that a militant on trial can hire a lawyer of choice and also appeal to the high courts against the decision of military tribunals.
Rights bodies and legal fraternity have criticised the military courts as a violation of fundamental rights of the people.
Proponents say the courts act as an "effective deterrent" for those considering violent acts.
The court is run by the military officers and operate in secrecy due to fear of backlash by militants.