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Pakistan 3 June 2004

Newsweek journalist Sami Yousafzai released

(JPEG) Afghan journalist Sami Yousafzai, who works for the US magazine Newsweek, was freed on 2 June after being held in secret in Pakistan since 21 April 2004. Before being released from a jail in Miranshah, in the North Waziristan tribal region, he was reportedly obliged to "confess" before a traditional assembly (jirga).

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) welcomed his release but regretted he had been held secretly in violation of Pakistani law. It also called for information about the fate of a taxi driver, Mohamed Salim, who was with him when he was arrested.

The deputy administrator of North Waziristan told the French news agency Agence France-Presse he had had a phone call from the capital, Islamabad, ordering Yousafzai’s release.

The journalist told Reporters Without Borders when he arrived in Peshawar that he had lost hope he would be freed. He said he had been held for 20 days by military intelligence agents in Peshawar but had not been tortured.

Lawyer Kamran Arif had filed a writ of habeas corpus with the Peshawar High Court on 13 May on behalf of Yusafzai’s mother. The court ordered provincial and federal authorities to charge the journalist before 8 June or release him.

Pakistani security forces arrested Yousafzai from Newsweek on 21 April in the Pakistani tribal areas while he was travelling with American reporter Eliza Griswold, who was later expelled from the country.

They did not have the special permission demanded by the Pakistani authorities since the start of the Pakistani military offensive against armed Taliban and al-Qaeda groups in the Wana area of South Waziristan.

No foreign journalist has been able to travel with permission to the region. However dozens of journalists from the tribal areas and Pakistani reporters have been able to work there.




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