Friday September 30, 2022

Blacklisted US national arrives again, arrested

August 07, 2016

Barret was expelled for espionage of sensitive installations; Nisar suspends immigration staff at Islamabad airport; orders probe into grant of visa to blacklisted person

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Saturday arrested an American citizen, who was blacklisted over espionage of nuclear installations in Pakistan, upon his entry to Islamabad.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan suspended the immigration staff deputed at the airport upon the smooth entry of a blacklisted US citizen to Pakistan again.

Mathew Craig Barret, a US citizen, was blacklisted and deported from Pakistan a few years back on his objectionable activities. The US citizen was later arrested from a guesthouse from the capital city the same day upon his entry into Islamabad. Two FIA officials at the immigration desk have also been arrested.

The arrest came in the light of information conveyed to Chaudhry Nisar. The minister has also sought an explanation from director and deputy director immigration over the negligence besides suspending the assistant director immigration.

The minister has also established a joint investigation team that would probe the matter within 24 hours and submit a report to the minister. The JIT comprises officials from the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and FIA and will be headed by SP Captain (retd) Ilyas.

The minister also instructed to investigate as to why and on whose recommendations visa was granted by the Pak Consulate in Houston to a blacklisted US citizen. Mathew Barrett was deported in 2011 on allegations of espionage when he was arrested near Fateh Jang 10 days after the Osama Bin Laden episode. Barrett was blacklisted five years ago and according to his own leaked letter, was innocent but was subjected to humiliation and torture by Pakistani law enforcement agencies.

Who is Mathew Barrett? Is he an American spy or an American traveller who married a Pakistan girl? Last time when he was in Pakistan, his activities were considered suspicious as he was found near army installations in Fateh Jang in a custom-built jeep whereas he was supposed to go to Swabi, which by no means comes through Fateh Jang. After much humiliation, torture and imprisonment and subsequent deportation, the American’s return after five years has raised eyebrows.

The spokesman at the Foreign Office, when contacted by The News, said that the FO was waiting for details from FIA and other law enforcement agencies before offering any comment on Barrett.

Details reveal that on May 12, 2011, just 10 days after the Abbottabad incident in which the Americans killed OBL, Barrett was arrested driving his custom-built Land Rover Defender by the law enforcement agencies near advanced military research facility that produces long-range missiles. Though that day he was let go after a few hours interrogation but the next month, in June 2011, he was arrested and sent to the Adiala Jail, his visa cancelled and was blacklisted on charges of spying for CIA.

In 2011 too, there were news in the Pakistan media that Barrett was a spy. The Guardian then had reported: “Yet little has been resolved. Is the young American really a CIA operative, part of a covert team such as the one that tracked Bin Laden, or others that are trying to inventory Pakistan’s nuclear stockpile? Or is he simply a young romantic who fell in love with the right woman from the wrong country, an unwitting victim of the geopolitical spy wars between two countries who cannot bear to be friends nor enemies?”

Barrett in his letter from the Adiala Jail had written: “I am a traveller that happened to fall in love. I’ve been living here three-and-a-half years. Now, all of a sudden, Pakistan and America have some problems, so they’re taking it out on me.”

In the Adiala Jail, he had been beaten and suffered a broken tooth, he wrote in the letter, adding, yet his own embassy appears indifferent to his plight. “They have been rude to my wife, even complaining about how hard it was to get permission to see me,” he wrote.

The Guardian had also reported in 2011 that after Barrett’s arrest in Pakistan, his friends and family also faced scrutiny in Alabama. “FBI agents arrived on their doorsteps with questions about his life in Pakistan; a high-school friend was shocked to face queries during a security check for a government job. Some of the FBI’s questions focused on Barrett’s relationship with Islam (he had to convert to marry Binosche),” the newspaper had reported.

In 2011, Barrett’s wife and father-in-law fought a legal battle and were seen visiting media offices to get their version published and get Barrett out of jail. At that time, the spy agencies had released the American because there was nothing against him except his suspicious traveling to Fateh Jang. It was believed that the American, once released would never return to Pakistan after torture and humiliation but he is back after five years. Either he is a stubborn soul as described by his friends or he is on a mission. The truth is yet to come out.