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Pakistani Man Moves Closer to Bringing Murder Charges Against Former CIA Employees Over Drone Strike

Former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks and former legal counsel John A. Rizzo are facing murder charges in Islamabad for their involvement in a 2009 drone strike.

by Mohammad Zubair Khan
Apr 7 2015, 5:50pm

Photo by Mansoor Bashir/Flickr

A Pakistani court has ordered police to begin proceedings against two former CIA employees who are accused of orchestrating a drone attack that led to the death of two local tribesmen.

On Tuesday, Islamabad High Court ruled that a First Information Report (FIR) must be registered by the city's Chief Inspector General of Police, Tahir Alam, against Jonathan Banks, a former CIA station chief, and John A. Rizzo, former CIA legal counsel overseeing the drone program. In Pakistan, a FIR is the first step towards bringing charges. The two American men are accused of being responsible for the deaths of at least two civilian Waziristan tribesmen in a drone attack.

VICE News has seen the court order, which also asks police to submit a report to the court within two days. 

During Tuesday's hearing, Alam requested more time, but Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui refused any postponement.

The man behind the murder charges is Haji Abdul Karim Khan — a journalist from Mirali, North Waziristan — whose son Zahinullah and brother Asif Iqbal were among those killed in the attack on December 31, 2009. He has previously called for Banks to be executed.

Related: We spoke to the lawyer facing death threats for defending the doctor who helped find Bin Laden. Read more here.

Khan told VICE News that he felt the order was a "victory for all those innocent civilians that have been killed in US-led drone strikes in Pakistan."

He added that as a citizen of Pakistan he said he felt "somewhat reaffirmed that perhaps people like me from Waziristan might also be able to get justice for the wrongs being done to them. I sincerely hope that authorities now will do their job and proceed against the culprits."

Khan's lawyer, Mirza Shahzad Akbar, also spoke to VICE News. "There is no doubt under Pakistani and international law that the US officials are committing an act of murder through drone strikes in Pakistan," he said. "Today's decision simply vindicates this very point. After this order all those who have been killed in drone strikes have a right to proceed in similar criminal actions against the CIA officials and others involved. This remarkable order also highlights the strength of independence of judiciary in Pakistan which is truly protecting the rights of citizens of Pakistan under the constitution."

Khan filed the initial application with the High Court in 2010, asking for an FIR. The police station had earlier refused his request to register it.

In his petition, Khan stated that his teenage son Zahinullah and brother Asif Iqbal — who was a primary school teacher — had been killed in a drone strike carried out on December 31, 2009. In the most recent petition, Khan said that the Islamabad police had been "reluctant" and in general had avoided taking proceedings against the CIA officials involved in this "brutal killing and hundreds of other killings in US conducted drone strikes in Pakistan."

Banks was forced to leave the country in 2010 after he was identified by name, while Rizzo left the CIA and has written a book his time at the agency.

Related: Stay of execution granted for Pakistani prisoner convicted at 14, but his case could be one of many. Read more here.

Follow Mohammad Zubair Khan on Twitter: @HazaraZubair

Photo via Flickr

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