Pakistani Soldier Gets Death Sentence in Shooting

Posted August 12th, 2011 at 11:05 am (UTC-5)
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A Pakistani court has sentenced to death a paramilitary soldier for the June killing of an unarmed man — an act that was caught on camera and sparked a huge public outcry after it was broadcast on television.

The anti-terrorism court on Friday also fined the soldier, Shahid Zafar, about $2,300 for shooting 19-year-old Sarfaraz Shah. It handed down life sentences to five other soldiers and a civilian security guard who were involved in the shooting death. Those men were ordered to pay Shah's family about $1,200 each.

Lawyers for the defendants say they plan to appeal.

The broadcast of the murder sparked growing anger against Pakistan's security forces already tarnished for their failure to detect the American commando raid that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in May.

The video showed a civilian dragging Shah over to a group of paramilitary Ranger soldiers, then Shah pleading for his life before being shot. He later died in a Karachi hospital.

The paramilitary force said Shah was armed and trying to rob someone when he was detained.

The video originally aired uncut on Pakistani television. The brutal nature of the footage disturbed many in Pakistan and called into question the actions of authorities.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has condemned the shooting, saying extrajudicial killings are becoming increasingly common in Pakistan. Following the incident, authorities removed the head of Pakistan's paramilitary Rangers force and the Sindh police chief in compliance with a Supreme Court order.

The country's security forces have been battling public criticism and doubt about their capabilities in the wake of the covert U.S. raid deep into Pakistani territory that killed al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden in early May. Pakistan's military did not detect the U.S. helicopter raid into the garrison town of Abbottabad, near the capital Islamabad, until it was under way. Even then, Pakistani forces were unable to intercept the U.S. special forces before they fled the country.

Pakistani militants have also in recent months staged high-profile assaults on military targets with seeming impunity.