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A top court in Islamabad has stayed the execution of five former Pakistan Navy officers previously sentenced to death by a military court in connection with the 2014 Navy Dockyard attack case.

Islamabad High Court (IHC) Judge Babar Sattar on Tuesday issued the written order for the hearing held a day earlier on the request of Navy officers who said they were not provided legal assistance during the general court-martial order, Dawn News reported.

The Navy Tribunal had sentenced the five Navy officers after they were arrested in 2016 in connection with the Navy Dockyard attack case.

They were found guilty of the attack and conspiracy against the Navy leadership.

The Navy Dockyard in Karachi was attacked in September 2014. The responsibility for the attack was claimed by the banned militant outfit Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

According to the statement issued by the Pakistan Navy at that time, two militants and one Navy personnel were killed in the attack. It also said that four attackers were also arrested.

The counsels for the petitioners argued the documents permissible to be shared with their clients, including the abstract of evidence and court of inquiry, were also not shared with them.

The lawyers asserted that an appeal was filed against the death sentence without access to these documents and was dismissed, adding that the reasons for the appeal court upholding the sentence were not shared with the petitioners.

The lawyers also said they were given limited access to documents despite a court order and this prevented the petitioners from defending their rights.

Meanwhile, Assistant Attorney General (AAG) Akeel Akhtar Raja said that Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Naveed Ashraf had the authority to access the documents and, according to rule 193 of the Pakistan Navy Rules, 1961, discretion was vested with him to form “an opinion that supply of any proceedings may be prejudicial to the safety or interests of the state”.

The AAG said that in terms of the above rule, the naval chief had formed an opinion in the cases that sharing details of the proceedings, including the findings recorded by the general court-martial and the order passed in appeal upholding the death penalty, “would be detrimental to the safety or the interests of the state”.

When asked as to whether the naval chief’s opinion was placed on file, the AAG replied in the negative and Deputy Judge Advocate General Hamid Hayat said that it would be available with the Pakistan Navy headquarters.

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The Islamabad High Court directed that “given that the fundamental question of protection of the right to life and due process is in question, the petitioners shall not be executed till the disposal of the petition”.

The order instructed the respondents to file the naval chief’s opinion within three weeks, along with the reasoning about why he formed the opinion that sharing the proceedings about the petitioners would be detrimental to the state’s interests.

The case was adjourned till July 1, according to the report.