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Pakistan court frees Manzoor Pashteen on bail

15 Feb 2020 TRT World

Chief of Pashtun Tahafuz (Protection) Movement, gets bail on all remaining complaints of sedition against surety bonds of $650 each, his lawyer Saeed Akhtar says.

Supporters of Pashtun Tahafuz Movement hold signs as they chant slogans during a country-wide protest over the arrest of their leader and student activist Manzoor Pashteen, in Quetta, Pakistan January 28, 2020. (Naseer Ahmed / Reuters)

A Pakistani court on Saturday ordered the release of a Pashtun rights leader critical of the military, his lawyer said, weeks after he was arrested on sedition charges.

Manzoor Pashteen, chief of the Pashtun Tahafuz  (Protection) Movement (or PTM), was arrested last month on charges of sedition, hate speech, incitement against the state, and criminal conspiracy.

His lawyer Saeed Akhtar told AFP news agency that he had already been bailed on three of five complaints against him.

"Today the court has granted him bail in the remaining two, against surety bonds of 100,000 ($650) each," Akhtar said.

He added that he hoped Pashteen would be released from jail later Saturday. A government prosecutor also confirmed the bail to AFP.

Alleged abuses 

Pashteen, a former veterinary student, has gained fame since 2018 with calls to end alleged abuses by security forces in the restive tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan.

Once plagued by militancy and unrest, the army has carried out many operations in the region, and security across Pakistan has dramatically improved in recent years.

But the PTM claim the operations came at a heavy price because of alleged abuses including enforced disappearances and targeted killings.

The movement remains peaceful but has been notable for its direct verbal attacks on the armed forces in a country where such criticism is largely seen as a red line.

Islamabad and the military have repeatedly denied the claims and arrested PTM activists.

Pashtun population 

Pashtuns are a fiercely independent ethnic group that straddles both sides of the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

They account for roughly 15 percent of Pakistan's population, with a majority of the 30 million-strong group living in the northwest.

Source: AFP

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