Kulbhushan Jadhav coerced, says India after Pakistan claims he refused case review

PTI

File photo of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of 'espionage'.

File photo of former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav who has been sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of ‘espionage’.

India on Wednesday called as “farce” Pakistan’s claim that Indian death-row convict Kulbhushan Jadhav refused to file a review petition against his sentence handed down by an army court in April 2017 and said he has clearly been “coerced” to forego his rights.

Spokesperson in the Ministry of External Affairs Anurag Srivastava said Pakistan’s claim reflected its attempt to “mask” its continuing “reticence to implement” the judgment of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the case in “letter and spirit”.

He said Pakistan is only seeking to create an “illusion of remedy” in the case, and asserted that India will do its “utmost” to protect Jadhav and ensure his safe return to India.

“Pakistan’s claim that Jadhav, who is incarcerated in Pakistan’s custody, has refused to initiate review petition is a continuation of the farce that has been in play for the last four years,” Srivastava said, responding to media queries on the issue.

Earlier, Pakistan said Jadhav refused to file an appeal in the Islamabad High Court against his conviction by a military court despite being offered the option.

Jadhav, a retired Indian Navy officer, was sentenced to death by a Pakistani military court on charges of espionage and terrorism in April 2017. Weeks later, India approached the ICJ against Pakistan for denial of consular access to Jadhav and challenging the death sentence. The ICJ, then, restrained Pakistan from executing him.

In July last year, the Hague-based court ruled that Pakistan must undertake an “effective review and reconsideration” of the conviction and sentence of Jadhav and also to grant consular access to India without further delay.

The MEA spokesperson said Pakistan is attempting to create a “mirage” of compliance with the ICJ judgment, adding the country has refused to hand over any relevant document, including the FIR (first information report), evidence and the court order in the case to India.

“Jadhav has been sentenced to execution through a farcical trial. He remains under custody of Pakistan’s military. He has clearly been coerced to refuse to file a review in his case,” the MEA spokesperson said.

He said India sought “unimpeded access” to Jadhav to discuss the remedies available to him under an ordinance, adding Pakistan is only seeking to create an “illusion of remedy”.

“In a brazen attempt to scuttle even the inadequate remedy under the ordinance, Pakistan has obviously coerced Jadhav to forego his rights to seek an implementation of the judgment of the International Court of Justice,” he said.

On May 20, Pakistan passed an ordinance to allow for the high court to review the sentence awarded by their military courts.

“The ICJ has already held that Pakistan is in egregious violation of international law. Government will do its utmost to protect Jadhav and ensure his safe return to India. To that end, it would consider all appropriate options,” Srivastava said.

He said India has repeatedly asked to allow a lawyer from outside Pakistan to appear for Jadhav in any review and reconsideration proceedings, but Pakistan denied it.

“Since 2017, when Military Court carried out a farcical trial, Pakistan has refused to hand over any relevant document, including FIR, evidence, court order, etc in the case to India. Clearly, Pakistan is attempting to create a mirage of compliance with the ICJ judgment,” the MEA spokesperson said.

He said Pakistan has maintained that its laws allowed for effective review and reconsideration.

“Now, after almost a year, they have made a U-turn and issued an ordinance to ostensibly provide for some sort of review. We have already expressed our serious concerns at the content of the ordinance and how it violates the ICJ judgment,” he said.