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Pakistan 7 April 2006

Supreme court upholds life imprisonment for editor Rehmat Shah Afridi

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the Pakistani supreme court’s decision yesterday to uphold a life sentence imposed on Rehmat Shah Afridi, the former editor for the Frontier Post and Maidan daily newspapers, for alleged drug trafficking. Afridi has been insisting on his innocence ever since his arrest by the Anti-Narcotics Force (ANF) in 1999.

The press freedom organisation said the police investigation and the initial judicial decisions were so marred by irregularities, manipulation and harassment that Afridi should be acquitted and released, above all procedural grounds.

Reporters Without Borders reiterated its call for an independent commission to investigate how the authorities have kept an newspaper editor in prison for nearly seven years.

The two death penalties passed on Afridi in 2001 were commuted to life imprisonment in June 2004 by the Lahore high court, which ruled that hashish trafficking was not a crime punishable by death. Afridi was the first person in Pakistani history to get the death penalty on a hashish trafficking charge.

The courts have themselves on several occasions condemned the police for its mishandling of the investigation, especially for the destruction of evidence.

The Afridi family and Reporters Without Borders have gathered ample evidence showing that Afridi, who is from the Tribal Areas, was the victim of retaliation by the US government-financed ANF for his reports accusing it of abuse of authority and corruption.

Afridi was sentenced to die by hanging in June 2001. He was arrested on 2 April 1999 for trafficking and possession of drugs. Many members of the Afridi clan are alleged to be involved in drug trafficking.

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