Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled that military trials for civilians are unconstitutional which experts are calling a win for democracy.
Monday’s decision comes months after the government said more than 100 people detained over protests following the May arrest of former PM Imran Khan would be tried in military courts.
The decision was widely criticized by human rights organizations.
These cases will now be transferred to civilian tribunals.
The ruling may also pave the way for other civilians convicted in military courts to appeal.
“Today’s verdict is highly significant and it will help strengthen the constitution, law, and the civilian institutions of the country,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, a lawyer for the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who filed the legal challenge to the military proceedings.
Other legal experts also hailed the “courageous” verdict.
The decision was “absolutely correct” and upheld the constitution, Ahsan Bhoon, former president of Pakistan’s Supreme Court Bar Association, told local news outlet Geo News.
The government’s decision to try Mr Khan’s supporters before military courts had sparked fears that the process would be unfair. Amnesty International alleged that military tribunals have a history of a lack of transparency, disregard for due process and coerced confessions.
But some government officials disagreed with the ruling.
Mr Khan, who was ousted last year in a no-confidence vote, is facing a flurry of cases that he says are politically motivated. On Monday, he was handed a fresh indictment for leaking classified documents.
The army plays a prominent role in Pakistan’s politics, sometimes seizing power in military coups and, on other occasions, pulling levers behind the scenes.
Many analysts believe Mr Khan’s election win in 2018 happened with the help of the military.
But the enormously popular former cricket hero has fallen out of favour with the military, a powerful behind-the-scenes player in Pakistan.
In opposition, he has been one of its most vocal critics, and analysts say the army’s popularity has fallen.
His arrest in May sparked protests across Pakistan – some of them violent and many targeting installations belonging to the military who demonstrators blamed for his downfall. Several thousand of his supporters were alleged to have been involved in the protests and were arrested.
Since then, Mr Khan and the PTI have faced a crackdown, with many of his senior leadership arrested, before announcing they were leaving the party.