Geo TV correspondent Mukesh Rupeta and assistant cameraman Sanjay Kumar were freed on bail today after being held secretly since 6 March 2006, probably by Pakistani military intelligence agents.
Police officer Manzoor Khoso said their trial on charges of “divulging official secrets” would begin on 29 June. They were abducted while filming an airbase used by the US military.
Rupeta told the Associated Press news agency: “Those who were holding us looked like intelligence agents. When they were beating me, I asked myself whether I am Pakistani.”
TV journalists kidnapped and tortured for filming airbase used by US military
Reporters Without Borders voiced outrage today at the action of Pakistani military intelligence officers in kidnapping and torturing two journalists who filmed an airbase used by the US military in the southern province of Sindh.
Mukesh Rupeta, a correspondent with the Pakistani independent television station Geo TV, and freelance cameraman Sanjay Kumar, were finally taken before a judge today after being held secretly for more than three months. They are now formally detained on a charge of “divulging official secrets.”
“It is high time that Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, told his intelligence services to refrain from such unacceptable practices,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Like Hayatullah Khan, these two journalists were kidnapped and tortured for filming US military equipment on Pakistani territory.”
Reporters Without Borders added: “President George W. Bush’s government also has a duty to remind its Pakistani ally that the war on terrorism in no way justifies such excesses. We call for the immediate release of Rupeta and Kumar, as well as the release of Munir Mengal, who was also kidnapped by intelligence agents.”
Reporters Without Borders has registered at least 21 cases of Pakistani and foreign journalists being kidnapped by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) since Gen. Musharraf became president in October 1999.
Rupeta and Kumar were detained on 6 March while filming the base at Shahbaz, in Sindh province, where the US military has equipment and troops. Thereafter, Geo TV received no news of its missing correspondent for more than three months.
They were handed over yesterday to the Jacobabad police, who formally arrested them under the Official Secrets Act. Rupeta is also reportedly accused of forging passports for members of the Hindu community, of which he is a member.
The two journalists were taken today before a judge in Jacobabad, who gave the police permission to hold them for another seven days while they pursue their enquiries. The judge also said they should be transferred at once to a hospital for a medical examination.
Both showed clear signs of having been tortured when they appeared in court. Rupeta told journalists in the courtroom: “I cannot tell you what they did to me. I thought they were going to kill me.” His mother, who was also present in the court, fainted seeing on the marks of the torture.