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Pakistan 22 January 2004

Court fails to force security agents to produce detained journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi

The Karachi High Court failed, for a fourth time, to force federal government representatives to produce journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, who has been secretly detained since 16 December 2003. The journalist’s lawyer, Abid Saqi, gave the judges information, in a closed-doors session on 22 January, on which he based his contention that his client was being detained by a Pakistani security agency. The court again demanded that government representatives did everything possible to find the journalist, who had been working with two French journalists from the weekly L’Express. The next hearing will be held in Karachi on 27 January. The spokesman for the US State Department told the press on 21 January that his government had expressed its concerns to the Pakistan government about Khawar Mehdi Rizvi’s situation. The official said in Washington that every detention should be handled in a transparent manner and in conformity with a normal legal process. On several occasions, top Pakistani officials have publicly confirmed that the military Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was holding Rizvi for "interrogation".

Reporters Without Borders condemns "State lie" after third denial on detained journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi has been secretly held for 35 days

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontières) condemned what it called "a State lie" after top federal government officials made a third denial to the High Court in Karachi that they were holding Pakistan journalist Khawar Mehdi Rizvi.

Additional advocate-general of Sindh Sarwar Khan and deputy attorney-general Syed Zaki Muhammad again denied before two judges on 20 January that Rizvi, who worked with French journalists Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau, was being detained by the federal government.

Pakistani security services were being allowed to hold the journalist in complete impunity with the blessing of the highest authorities, protested the international press freedom organisation.

The organisation joined the call from the international support committee for Khawar Mehdi Rizvi for the immediate release of a journalist who had only been doing his job.

The Sindh provincial court judges told the prosecution officials that the federal government should return to the court on 22 January with precise information with regard to the journalist. If the government continues to deny the arrest, the court could decide to hear journalist’s lawyer behind closed doors (chamber). The officials made this third denial in response to a habeas corpus petition lodged earlier by the lawyer for Rizvi’s family, Abid Saqi.

The journalist has been held for 35 days by Pakistani military security in Islamabad. He is likely to be under heavy pressure and Amnesty International has said it feared he was being tortured.

The international support committee is made up of journalists from Pakistan, from the French media, France 2, TF1, Le Monde, Libération, L’Express, the US dailies, The New York Times and Chicago Tribune and Reporters Without Borders.

The three journalists were arrested on 16 December 2003 in Karachi. Marc Epstein of the French weekly L’Express wrote in an article published in the magazine on 19 January that the three of them had been arrested after interviewing a Taliban commander in Afghanistan. He said the three journalists never had any intention of tarnishing the image of Pakistan.

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