Public Order, Violence against Speakers / Impunity
Perozo and others v. Venezuela
Venezuela, Bolivarian Republic of
Closed Expands Expression
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The High Court of Lahore dismissed appeals against a decision of the District and Sessions Courts of Mianwali, which had convicted Munir Hussain of murdering the journalist Abdul Razzaq Jaura and acquitted Riaz Ahmad due to lack of evidence. However, the Court commuted the death sentence imposed on Munir Hussain to life imprisonment.
Abdul Razzaq Jaura, reporter for Royal TV news channel, had received multiple death threats and is believed to have been targeted because of his reporting on the drug trade.
Columbia Global Freedom of Expression could not identify the official legal and government records on the case and that the information contained in this report was derived from secondary sources. It must be noted that media outlets may not provide complete information about this case. Additional information regarding this legal matter will be updated as an official source becomes available.
This case analysis was provided by the Pakistan Press Foundation
Jaura was murdered on November 3 2008 while travelling with his two brothers to Mianwali City in the Punjab province of Pakistan. Jaura, who was on a motorcycle, was stopped by Hussain and Ahmad who accused him of helping police carry out a raid on them. Hussain shot Jaura, killing him.
Police arrested Hussain and Ahmad on November 11, 2008. They were tried for murder under section 302 (punishment of Qatl-i-Amd or intentional murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and section 34 PPC (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) in the District and Sessions Court, Mianwali. On October 12, 2009 the Court convicted Hussain under section 302 PPC, sentencing him to death and imposing a fine of Rs100, 000 while Ahmad was acquitted of all charges due to lack of evidence.
Hussain subsequently appealed to the Lahore High Court challenging the conviction and Jaura’s brother, Malik Taj Muhammad, filed an appeal against the acquittal of Ahmad and also seeking a higher amount of compensation. The High Court dismissed both appeals. However, it commuted Hussain’s death sentence to life imprisonment, in accordance with section 374 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (Cr.P.C). (Under section 374 of the (Cr.P.C), a death sentence awarded by the sessions court has to be submitted to the high court for confirmation before it can be carried out.)
Jaura had received multiple threats to his life and is believed to have been targeted due to his reporting on the local drug trade. Jaura’s brother Muhammad stated in the First Information Report that the motive of the killing was to take revenge as Jaura had helped police in carrying out a raid on the accused.
Judge Malik delivered the opinion of the Court.
The underlying issue was whether the District and Sessions Court had erred in firstly, convicting Hussain and secondly, acquitting Ahmad.
Hussain argued that the trial court’s ruling should be set aside owing to its reliance on accounts of prosecution witnesses, who had a blood relation with the deceased and were therefore interested parties in the case. He further alleged that the prosecution’s account was based entirely on conjecture and full of contradictions.
The Court dismissed this appeal, referring to the witness testimonies of Muhammad and Ghulam Muhammad, brothers of the deceased, as “confidence inspiring’’. This, together with the medical evidence was the basis for the Court’s dismissal of the appeal. However, the Court commuted the death sentence to life imprisonment in accordance with section 374 of the Cr.P.C.
In doing so, it cited Mir Muhammad alias Miro versus The State (2009 SCMR 1188) where the Supreme Court observed: “It will not be out of place to emphasize that in criminal cases, the question of quantum of sentence requires utmost care and caution on the part of the courts, as such decisions restrict the life and liberties of the people. Indeed the accused persons are also entitled to extenuating benefit of doubt to the extent of quantum of sentence.’’
In his appeal against Ahmad’s acquittal, Muhammad argued that there was no justification for the lower court decision as Ahmad was accompanying Hussain at the time of the murder and shared a common intention to kill Jaura.
The Court dismissed this appeal, reasoning that is a “well established principle of law that when a court of competent jurisdiction acquits an accused of the charge, then double presumption of innocence is attached to the said accused…” The Court noted that the evidence against Ahmad was not sufficient to rebut this presumption. The appeal was therefore dismissed.
Decision Direction indicates whether the decision expands or contracts expression based on an analysis of the case.
Abdul Razzaq Jaura is one of only five journalists whose killers have been convicted. This decision suggests a break from the past where journalists were killed with impunity and perhaps a sign that violence against journalists aimed at curtailing freedom of expression will be dealt with according to the law.
According to the Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), 72 journalists and media workers have lost their lives since 2002 while pursuing their duties in Pakistan. Of these 47 have been deliberately targeted and murdered for their reporting.
Global Perspective demonstrates how the court’s decision was influenced by standards from one or many regions.
Case significance refers to how influential the case is and how its significance changes over time.
According to Article 201 of the Constitution of Pakistan, a judgement of the high court is binding on all subordinate courts, to the extent that it decides a question of law.
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