ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan’s military and intelligence agencies, apparently trying to avoid acknowledging an elaborate secret detention system, have quietly set free nearly 100 men suspected of links to terrorism, few of whom were charged, human rights groups and lawyers here say.
Those released, they say, are some of the nearly 500 Pakistanis presumed to have disappeared into the hands of the Pakistani intelligence agencies cooperating with Washington’s fight against terrorism since 2001.
No official reason has been given for the releases, but as pressure has mounted to bring the cases into the courts, the government has decided to jettison some suspects and thereby spare itself the embarrassment of having to reveal that people have been held on flimsy evidence in the secret system, its opponents say.
Interviews with lawyers and human rights officials here and a review of cases and court records by The New York Times show how scraps of information have accumulated over recent months into a body of evidence of the detention system.
In one case, a suspect tied to the 2002 killing of Daniel Pearl, the American journalist, but not charged, was dumped on a garbage heap, so thin and ill he died 20 days later.
He, like one other detainee, was arrested in South Africa several years ago, and released in Pakistan this year.
In at least two other instances, detainees were handed over to the United States without any legal extradition proceedings, Pakistani lawyers and human rights groups say. American officials here and in Washington refused to comment on the cases.