Soldiers charged over death of unarmed man

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The Independent Online

Police have charged six members of a paramilitary force with the killing of an unarmed man, a government lawyer said, in a rare rebuke to Pakistan's powerful military.

Last week's incident in the southern city of Karachi was caught on video and shown on national television, fuelling anger against the security forces who are already under pressure after Osama bin Laden's killing in a US raid last month.

"The police have submitted their investigation report to me, which will now be scrutinised and submitted to the court, after which the trial will be held in an anti-terrorism court," state lawyer Arshad Iqbal Cheema said.

He said the soldiers, who had been in police custody, were now in prison. The footage showed soldiers opening fire at close range at a man identified as Sarfaraz Shah in a public park in Karachi. A civilian – who has also been charged – is seen grabbing the victim by the hair and dragging him over to a group of soldiers. He begs for mercy, then one of the soldiers shoots him twice.

The victim collapses in a pool of blood in the park named after the late prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who is seen around the world as a symbol of democracy.

All seven men committed murder and an act of terrorism, according to the police charge sheet.

The shooting triggered fresh criticism of Pakistan's human rights record and an unpopular government that many say has failed to rein in the police and army, who are often seen as untouchable.

The Supreme Court took up the incident on its own authority and ordered the removal of the police chief of Sindh province, where Karachi is the capital.