The Indian army has closed investigations into an alleged fake encounter case that reportedly left five innocent civilians dead on March 26, 2000 at Pathribal, in Indian-administered Kashmir.
The army had always denied that civilians were killed in the encounter, maintaining that those killed were "mercenaries" responsible for the killing of 35 members of the Sikh community five days earlier while Bill Clinton, the then US President, was on a visit to India.
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Five Indian army soldiers had been earlier indicted by the country's premier investigating agency for the killing of the "civilians".
Omar Abdullah, chief minister of Indian-administered Kashmir expressed "extreme disappointment" over this and told a TV new channel he would "knock on every door possible" at the federal government level to seek justice against this.
An Indian army spokesperson told reporters in Jammu, "The evidence recorded could not establish a prima facie case against any of the accused persons."
The defence spokesperson said, "it was established the Pathribal encounter was a joint operation by police and the army based on specific intelligence", quoted reports.
According to the army, over 50 witnesses including civilians, state government and police officials were examined.
"The case has been closed by army authorities and intimation given to the court of the judicial magistrate in Srinagar," the spokesperson said.
In 2006 the CBI (Central Bureau of Investigation), India’s top federal agency, had indicted five army personnel for staging the encounter.
The CBI’s 18-page charge sheet said the army unit in the area was under "tremendous psychological pressure" to show adequate response to the gunning down of the Sikh community members in south Kashmir.
The CBI in its report had cleared the state police while indicting five army personnel, including officials and soldiers of the Seven Rashtriya Rifles unit, of staging a fake encounter that killed five innocents.
Following a Supreme Court order in March 2012 the Indian army had taken over the case after the CBI probe.
Rights groups have often accused the Indian army of excesses in the region. The army denies such charges, insisting there is zero-tolerance towards abuses.
Reports said 123 Indian army personnel have been found guilty in 59 cases of human rights violation in India- administered Kashmir region.
Source: Al Jazeera