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Baloch terrorism trial "not guilty" verdict



Faiz Baluch (left) and Hyrbyar Marri (right) with
Walid Garboni (www.balochinews.com) outside Belmarsh Court, January 2009

Defendants Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch vindicated

London 11 February 2009

Baluchistan human rights activists, Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz Baluch,
have been acquitted of terrorism charges today, 11 February 2009, at
Woolwich Crown Court in London.

Mr Baluch was acquitted of all charges. Mr Marri was acquitted of
three charges, with the jury unable to come to a verdict on the other
two charges.

Mr Marri is a former Balochistan MP and government minister. Mr Baluch
is a human rights activist. Both are exiles based in London.

"All the evidence suggests that Marri and Baluch were framed by the
Musharraf dictatorship to silence their highly effective campaigning
against Pakistan's human rights abuses in Balochistan," said human
rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who stood bail for Mr Baluch.

"This case began with Musharraf's regime orchestrating fabricated
charges of terrorism against Mr Marri and then pressing the UK
authorities to arrest him.

"It appears that the British government was blackmailed into arresting
the two defendants. Musharraf's agents reportedly issued an ultimatum
to the UK authorities: arrest these men or we will halt all
cooperation in the war on terror. The government apparently caved in
to these demands. It decided the defendants were expendable for the
so-called 'greater good' of anti-terrorist cooperation with the
Pakistani regime.

"The police and security agencies in the UK initiated the terrorism
charges based on evidence provided to them by Musharraf's dictatorship
a dictatorship that the defendants campaigned against.

"Our government has ignored the fact that Musharraf's men in the
Pakistani intelligence agency, the ISI, are notorious for framing
political opponents, especially Baloch nationalists and human rights
defenders.

"Although Musharraf is no longer President, his supporters and allies
still hold key positions in the Pakistani military and intelligence
services. They continue to persecute and frame Baloch nationalists,"
said Mr Tatchell.

Below are copies of:

1)    The post-verdict statements by the two defendants in the Baloch
terror trial at Woolwich Crown Court
2)    Peter Tatchell's statement as a political ally who campaigned
alongside the defendants and who stood bail for Mr Baluch

The defendants have authorised the release of the statements below.

Best wishes, Peter Tatchell 0207 403 1790

Commenting on the "not guilty" verdict in the Baloch terrorism trial
at Woolwich Crown Court, the defendants, Hyrbyair Marri and Faiz
Baluch, have issued the following statements:


HYRBYAIR MARRI

Hyrbyair Marri, the former Balochistan MP and government minister, said:

"My faith in the British people has been vindicated. The 12 jurors
upheld the values of justice and recognised the Baloch people's right
to self-defence. They decided that we were no more guilty of terrorism
than Nelson Mandela and the heroes of the anti-Nazi resistance in
occupied Europe.

"The people of Balochistan will be delighted that the British courts
have ruled that campaigning for democracy, human rights and
self-determination is not a crime.

"The police and prosecution never had a credible case against us. It
was based on a malign misinterpretation of purely circumstantial
evidence.

"All their evidence against us had an innocent explanation. The jury
agreed. That is why they found us not guilty.

"The police have wasted possibly millions of pounds on these
pointless, unfounded
allegations of terrorism.

"I believe the British government was blackmailed by Musharraf's men.
They threatened to cut off all cooperation with the UK in the war on
terror unless we were arrested.

"The whole case originated with the false allegations of terrorism
that were concocted by the Musharraf regime in a bid to stop our human
rights campaigning.

"The new democratic government of Pakistan opposed our prosecution and
confirmed that the terrorism charges against me in Pakistan, which led
to our arrest in London, were fabricated by Musharraf's henchmen.

"What is truly shocking is that the British government bowed to
pressure from the Pakistani dictatorship and had us investigated and
put on trial. This is a gross abuse of the anti-terror laws.

"I am tremendously grateful to my legal team of Henry Blaxland QC,
Rajiv Menon, and Jim Nichol. Their superb efforts have won us our
freedom," said Mr Marri.


FAIZ BALUCH

Faiz Baluch, the Baloch human rights campaigner, said:

"This is a great victory for British justice and for the people of
Balochistan. The jury defended our right to campaign for the freedom
of our homeland. They decided we were innocent, lawful human rights
campaigners and that the government and police case against us was
flawed.

"This prosecution arose out of the British government's appeasement of
the dictator General Musharraf, in order to win his cooperation in the
war on terror. The jury has implied, by their not guilty verdict,
sympathy with the suffering of the Baloch people. The terrorist who
should have been in the dock is Musharraf. He is the one who inflicted
terror attacks on the people of Baluchistan.

"Our acquittal brings to a close a 15 month nightmare. I spent eight
months on remand in Belmarsh prison for a crime I did not commit.

"I want to thank my legal team, Lady Helena Kennedy QC, Hossein Zahir,
Gareth Peirce and Sajida Malik. They did an amazing job," said Mr
Baluch.


PETER TATCHELL

Peter Tatchell, human rights campaigner, who campaigned for
Balochistan rights with the defendants prior to their arrest, and who
stood bail for Mr Baluch, said:

"Marri and Baluch were set up by Musharraf's agents because of their
highly effective exposure of Pakistan's war crimes and crimes against
humanity in annexed Balochistan.

"This view is reinforced by the acting Interior Minister of the new
democratic government of Pakistan, Rehman Malik. In late 2008, he
announced that the terror charges against Mr Marri in Pakistan have
been dropped; stating that the case against him was flawed and had
been politically orchestrated by the Musharraf regime. This discredits
the whole basis on which Marri and Baluch were charged in London.

"During the trial, the defence showed that the British government
collaborated with the illegal, unconstitutional regime of Pervez
Musharraf, which overthrew the democratically-elected government of
Pakistan in 1999.

"This collaboration included arming the illegal Musharraf regime to
enable it to prosecute an illegal war in Balochistan, where the
Pakistani armed forces have perpetrated war crimes and crimes against
humanity.

"During the trial, the judge accepted the Baloch people are an
oppressed minority, and that they have been victims of war crimes and
crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Pakistani military, police
and intelligence services. These crimes include the indiscriminate
bombing of civilian areas, extra-judicial killings, disappearances,
torture, detention without trial and collective punishments such as
the destruction of villages, crops, livestock and wells  all of
which are illegal acts under international law.

"Despite this persecution and terrorisation by the Pakistani state,
the judge suggested that the Baloch people do not have the right to
use violence to defend themselves and that anyone who supports or
condones armed resistance groups in Balochistan is endorsing
terrorism. Even the mere political or moral approval of armed
self-defence is now a criminal offence under UK law.

"Marri's and Baluch's arrest came just a few months after Musharraf
demanded that the British government arrest Baloch activists in
London. In exchange, Musharraf offered to hand over Rashid Rauf,
implying that action against the Baloch activists was a precondition
for surrendering Rauf to the UK, as reported in The Guardian on 28
March 2007.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/mar/28/pakistan.terrorism

Rauf is wanted in the UK in connection with the 2006 terror plot
involving liquid explosives on trans-Atlantic airliners, which
resulted in the conviction of three men in London in September 2008.
He is also sought in connection with a murder in the UK.

"The arrest in London of Marri and Baluch took place two weeks after
Pakistani government agents assassinated Marri's brother, Balach
Marri, a prominent Baloch nationalist leader.

"Prior to Marri's arrest, Musharraf's regime made repeated
representations to the UK government that he was wanted on terrorism
charges in Pakistan - charges that have now been dropped by the
Pakistani authorities.

"Soon after Musharraf met Gordon Brown at Downing Street in January
2008, he held a press conference for Pakistani journalists in London
where he allegedly denounced Marri as a terrorist and praised the
British government and police for cooperating with his regime.

"Claims of connivance are credible. For nine years, the UK's Labour
government supported Musharraf's dictatorship politically,
economically and militarily, despite him having overthrown Pakistan's
democratically-elected government in 1999. Labour sold him military
equipment that his army uses to kill innocent Baloch people. The US
supplies the F-16 fighter jets and Cobra attack helicopters that are
used to bomb and strafe villages.

"Marri is an unlikely terrorist. He is a former Balochistan MP
(1997-2002), and was the Minster for Construction and Works in the
provincial assembly in 1997-1998. He fled to Britain in 2000, fearing
arrest, torture and possible assassination by Musharraf's men.

"One of his brothers is Mehran Baluch. He is the Baloch Representative
to the UN Human Rights Council. He was the subject of an attempted
extradition plot last year by Musharraf's regime, on trumped up
charges, as exposed by The Guardian on 28 March 2007.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2007/mar/28/pakistan.terrorism

"The arrest of Marri - together with the murder of one brother and the
attempt to frame and extradite another brother - looks like a
systematic attempt to target his family and crush three leading voices
of Baloch dissent.

"A former self-governing British Protectorate, Balochistan secured its
independence in 1947, alongside India and Pakistan, but was invaded
and forcibly annexed by Pakistan in 1948. The Baloch people did not
vote for incorporation. They were never given a choice. Ever since,
Balochistan has been under military occupation by Islamabad. Baloch
demands for a referendum on self-rule have been rejected.
Democratically elected Baloch leaders who have refused to kow-tow
toPakistan's subjugation have been arrested, jailed and murdered.

"The Asian Human Rights Commission reports that Pakistani army raids
have resulted in 3,000 Baloch people dead, 200,000 displaced and 4,000
arrested. Thousands more have simply disappeared," said Mr Tatchell.

Briefing on human rights abuses

Details of Pakistan's human rights abuses in Balochistan are well
documented by Pakistani and international human rights groups,
including:

Human Rights Commission of Pakistan
http://www.hrcp-web.org/balochistan_mission.cfm
and
http://www.hrcp-web.org/images/publication/balochistan%20report/pdf/balochistan_report.pdf

Asian Human Rights Commission
http://www.ahrchk.net/statements/mainfile.php/2006statements/708

International Crisis Group
www.crisisgroup.org/home/index.cfm?id=4373

Amnesty International
http://web.amnesty.org/library/index/ENGASA330042006

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
http://www.carnegieendowment.org/publications/index.cfm?fa=view&id=17865&prog=zgp&proj=zsa&zoom_highlight=Baluchistan

Human Rights Watch
http://hrw.org/wr2k8/pdfs/pakistan.pdf

Watch this TV interview by Peter Tatchell with Mehran Baluch, the
Baloch representative to the UN Human Rights Council:
http://www.veoh.com/videos/v15574249Ka8gKRt6

Further information:

Peter Tatchell 020 7403 1790

www.petertatchell.net


ENDS

--

To contact Peter,
please email him at his NEW email address - peter@petertatchell.net

Peter Tatchell is the Green Party parliamentary candidate for Oxford East
www.greenoxford.com/peter and www.petertatchell.net

PETER TATCHELL HUMAN RIGHTS FUND

Donations are requested to help Peter Tatchell's campaigns promoting
human rights, democracy and global justice. Peter is unpaid and
receives no grants. He depends on donations from friends and
supporters.

Please make cheques payable to: "Peter Tatchell Human Rights Fund".

Send to: PTHRF, PO Box 35253, London E1 4YF

To download a donation form or a standing order mandate, go to
Donations at: www.tatchellrightsfund.org

For information about Peter Tatchell's campaigns: www.petertatchell.net




Faiz Baluch

Hyrbyair Marri
Protesters outside Woolwich Crown Court 01/12/08, (full release). Background coverage below. Photos courtesy of Ambreen Hisbani