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Pakistan 26 September 2003

Call for journalist sentenced to death to be taken to hospital

Reporters Without Borders called today for the immediate transfer to hospital of Rehmat Shah Afridi, former editor of the national daily papers Frontier Post and Maidan, who is in jail awaiting execution.

It urged Punjab provincial governor Khalid Maqbool to ensure proper medical care for the journalist, who has been deprived of medicine for serious heart trouble and has reportedly lost a lot of weight. It reiterated that his death sentence for supposed possession and trafficking of drugs was a trumped-up charge aimed at silencing the two newspapers.

Afridi, who is appealing against the sentence, was arrested on 2 April 1999 and on 27 June 2001 condemned to be hanged. He says he was convicted as part of revenge by the country’s Anti-Narcotics Force, which is funded by the US government. The two papers frequently exposed corruption, drug trafficking and illegal arms sales.

After his arrest, he was tortured and sent to death row in Lahore’s Kot Lakhpat prison. He also has back problems and until recently did not have a mattress despite being kept in his cell round the clock.

His family recently asked the Punjabi home affairs minister to allow him to have medical treatment. The minister said he would sent to a hospital specialising in cardiology, but this has not been done.

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