KASUR: Police arrested five accused of the child sex abuse scandal from the courtroom after their bail pleas were turned down on Monday, raising the total number of perpetrators in custody to 12.
On the other hand, Kasur Civil Judge Shumaila Yaqoob extended remand of the seven accused who were already in police custody on a 10 days remand.
All these men were allegedly part of a 25-member gang which rendered children to sexual abuse, filmed the crime and sold those videos in form of CDs in Kasur’s Head Ganda Singh Wala area.
The five accused arrested on Monday had secured pre-arrest bails but Additional District and Sessions Judge Samina Hayat rejected their bail confirmation applications after a lawyer for the victims accused them of protecting the main culprits.
Wasim Sindhi, who was also on pre-arrest bail, did not show up in the court and his bail was also cancelled. There were reports about the arrest of another accused Saghir, son of Bashir. However, police neither confirmed nor showed his arrest in record.
The five men arrested from court were Saleem Akhtar Sherazi, a Health Department employee, Tanzeelur Rehman, an LHC clerk, Attiqur Rehman, a staffer of Lahore District and Sessions Court, Aleem Asif and Mohammad Yahya.
The Lahore High Court chief justice on Monday fired accused Tanzeelur Rehman from service.
Haseem Amir alias Haji, the main accused among those seven whose remand was extended, is said to be a graduate. He and his younger brother Naseem Shahzad were remanded in the police custody for two days. Basharat alias Chevar, Faizan Majeed and his brother Ali Majeed, Abdul Manan alias Wattoo and Usman Khalid were remanded for four days.
The police had requested extension in their remand to recover cell phones, pornographic movies, memory cards, CDs and ammunition from their possession.
AFP adds: At least 280 children were filmed being sexually abused by a gang of 25 men who used hundreds of videos they produced to blackmail the youngsters and their families, according to Latif Ahmed Sara, a lawyer and activist representing the victims.
Sara accused the police of dragging their feet – some of the videos date back to 2007. “The police are protecting the criminals, they are supporting them and have provided them an opportunity to escape the village,” Sara told reporters.
But an initial police probe, carried out last week at the behest of the provincial government described the allegations as “baseless”, a conclusion immediately rejected by local media and rights activists who said the case was just a tip of the iceberg.
District police chief Rai Baber Saeed told AFP that officers were doing their best to catch those responsible, but insisted there were no more than 30 victims and accused activists and media of exaggerating.
“Police have 30 video clips of the scandal involving 15 people. Seven of them have been arrested while four or five are on pre-arrest bail and the rest are absconders,” he told AFP before the latest arrests. He described the case as an old one, dragged up recently by a group of villagers as a tactic in a dispute over the sale of some land.
The independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan said the property dispute did not detract from the horror of the abuse and demanded a thorough and impartial investigation, voicing doubts over the judicial commission ordered by the Punjab chief minister.
Mumtaz Hussain from Sahil, Pakistan’s leading campaign group working against child abuse, told AFP there were more than 3,500 registered cases last year – representing nearly 10 children a day being abused. But he said the true figure was far higher, perhaps as many as 10,000.
Another 5 ‘child abusers’ arrested