Primary accused Usman Mirza. Image Credit: Online

Islamabad: A trial court of Islamabad on Friday awarded life imprisonment in a couple harassment and stripping case to primary accused Usman Mirza and four of his accomplices and co-accused.

They have been charged with forcing a couple to strip, holding them at gunpoint and thrashing them in the presence of men in a residential sector of E-11 in Islamabad.

Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani announced the much-awaited verdict.

According to details, the Islamabad police sprang into action and arrested the seven accused after a video of a couple being subjected to violence and torture went viral on social media in July 2021.

Besides the primary accused Usman Mirza, the four co-accused who have been sent to jail for life-term included Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen.

Two accused Umar Bilal and Rehan Hassan Mughal have been acquitted over insufficient evidence.

In January this year, the case had taken a dramatic turn leading to a public outrage when the woman complainant presented before the court and told she was not interested in the proceedings to go further.

She, in fact, retracted her statement against the accused telling the trial court that she did not even know the guys and saw them for the first time in a police station.

She further told the court that the investigation officer (IO) had taken her thumb impressions on blank papers.

State becomes party

After the woman complainant’s back-tracking the state had to step in and become a party.

There was a public outrage when the news that the victim was backing out appeared in the media and the general perception was that the poor victims had done so because of the influence of the accused.

On this, the government had to step in and Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari assured that the state would take up the case as it had “irrefutable video and forensic evidence on record.”

“The video of Usman Mirza (primary accused) has been verified by the Pakistan Science Foundation, and we have photogrammetry (pertaining to the technique for making measurements through photographs) evidence,” she had said in a statement.

The court has also ordered the convicts to pay a fine of Rs200,000 (Dh4,045) each. In case of non-payment, they would undergo six months of simple imprisonment.

They have also been sentenced to seven years in prison for criminal intimidation and three years for intending to insult the modesty of a woman.

This is the first such case of criminal nature in which a sentence has been passed on the basis of irrefutable video evidence.

After the verdict was announced, Pakistan’s Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry took to social media and welcomed the judgment.

This is a positive development that modern technology is being used to identify and convict the accused and would help the courts to announce similar verdicts in Sialkot lynching of the Sri Lankan national and other cases, said Chaudhry in his post on social media.