An anti-terrorism court in Lahore on Thursday acquitted all the suspects involved in the Sahiwal encounter on the basis of the benefit of the doubt.

The case was being heard by Anti-Terrorism Court Number 1 Judge Arshad Hussain Bhutta. The suspects Safdar Hussain, Ahsan Khan, Ramzan, Saifullah, Hasnain and Nasir Nawaz appeared before the court.

The court dismissed the statements given by 49 witnesses including the victim Zeeshan’s brother Ehtisham. During the hearing, statements were also given by the victim Khalil’s children and his brother. The witnesses refused to identify the suspects before the court.

The court issued its verdict after holding hearings for the case for nine months.

On January 19, four people, including three of a family, were killed in an alleged shootout in Sahiwal, with the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) personnel claiming they had killed a local commander of militant organisation Daesh and three others in the operation. Eyewitnesses, however, disputed the claim and said the people in the car did not fire at officials, nor were any explosives recovered from the vehicle.

A Joint Investigation Team formed to probe the killings in its final report submitted last month said the slain family members were innocent and they were wrongly murdered. The report also recommended strict action against the CTD officials who made changes in the record.