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Pakistan 27 May 2002

Our correspondent visited Amardeep Bassey in prison - Reporters Without Borders calls for the release of the journalist and his guides


The Interior Ministry in Islamabad passed on an order to the government of the Peshawar province, on 27 May, to expel Amardeep Bassey within seven days. But this decision has not yet been sent to the security forces who are holding the British journalist. Together with his guides, Bassey is being held in a cell in Khyber House, seat of the representative of the federal government in change of the Khyber tribal zone in Peshawar. Amardeep Bassey told an RSF representative on 27 May that he was "desperate" that his release was taking so long.


Amardeep Bassey and his guides were taken back to Landikotal prison (Khyber tribal zone) after being questioned for three days by secret police in Peshawar. The British journalist told a RSF correspondent that they were questioned night and day. The police promised to provide a report to their superiors within 3 days. Finally, two representatives of the Sunday Mercury were refused the right to visit their imprisoned reporter on 20 May-.


Journalist Amardeep Bassey and his two guides have been transferred for three days to the headquarters of the Special Branch police in Peshawar for questioning. According to sources contacted by RSF’s correspondent, the Special Branch police have been under pressure to ensure the case is examined as quickly as possible. Currently responsible for questioning Pakistani prisoners returning from Afghanistan, the Special Branch had nonetheless refused, on 16 May, to take the three men into police custody.


After spending only a few hours in Peshawar, Amardeep Bassey and his two guides were again transferred to the Landi Kotal prison on 16 May. Police in Peshawar said that they did not have enough investigators to interrogate the journalist and his two Pakistani guides. A Landi Kotal police official told RSF that the three prisoners would be again transferred to Peshawar as soon as the investigators were available.

The British journalist Amardeep Bassey, arrested six days ago by the authorities in Pakistan, was transferred to Peshawar this morning, 16 May 2002, together with his two guides, for further questioning. He will be seen by police and members of Pakistan’s secret service (ISI). He is being held in a military area in the centre of Peshawar.

The correspondent for Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières - RSF) in Pakistan, Iqbal Khattak, spoke to the British journalist Amardeep Bassey in his prison cell in Landi Kotal (50 km west of Peshawar, in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province) on 15 May 2002. The Sunday Mercury reporter confirmed that he was in good health, but had undergone extensive questioning and was being harassed by the security services, who suspect him of spying for India. Amardeep Bassey told RSF’s correspondent: "I am OK, don’t worry. I am in good hands; not those of the authorities of course, but of the people who are with me here in the jail (...). My Pakistani guides, and their families, are my only hope in overcoming these difficult moments."

The British journalist of Indian origin refused to comment on the questioning to which he had been subjected by the Pakistani security services, but confirmed that he had not been ill-treated. "They asked me very detailed questions; sometimes the same question for several hours (...). They asked me when I last travelled to India and the name of my village", explained Bassey, a British citizen whose family is of Sikh origin.

Amardeep Bassey also explained why his passport did not have an exit visa from Pakistan. "When I returned to Afghanistan with my two guides, I asked them where the frontier checkpoint was. They told me that we were already in Afghanistan."

The organisation that defends press freedom has once again urged the Pakistani authorities to release Amardeep Bassey immediately, together with his two Pakistani guides Naoshad Ali Afridi and Khitab Shah Shinwari. "It is imperative that the Interior Minister intervenes without delay, to ensure that the authorities responsible in the NWFP release the journalist and regularise his situation. In the past, a number of journalists have entered or left Pakistan without having their passport stamped, and the authorities have always managed to find a quick solution to this purely administrative problem", says Robert Ménard, Secretary-General of RSF. The organisation has also asked the UK’s Foreign Office to intervene to obtain the release of Amardeep Bassey and his two guides.

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