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April 9, 2020

SHC sets aside conviction of journalist jailed for five years

Karachi

April 9, 2020

The Sindh High Court on Wednesday set aside the five-year imprisonment awarded to senior journalist Nasarullah Khan by an anti-terrorism court for possessing literature and magazines of banned organisations, observing that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges against him.

Nasrullah Khan, who has been associated with an Urdu daily, was jailed for five year by the ATC on December 26, 2019 for possessing literature and magazines of outlawed organisations that incited hatred against state institutions and the government, besides having links with activists of banned outfits.

According to the prosecution, the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) had arrested Khan on the basis of a spy’s information in the Soldier Bazaar area on November 11, 2018, and seized four backdated magazines of the Nawa-e-Afghan Jihad from his possession, in which people had been incited against state institutions and material related to sectarian hatred and support to the former Afghan Talban emir Mullah Omer.

The appellant’s counsel, Mohammad Farooq, said his client was a senior journalist and had nothing to do with any proscribed organisation. He said Khan was arrested at his house on November 10, and after two days of illegal detention he had been implicated in a false and fabricated case.

He argued that the material shown to be recovered from the possession of the journalist was old magazines and the police had failed to prove that the appellant was printing, publishing or disseminating any material to incite hatred in public or giving projection to any person convicted of a terrorist act.

He said the appellant was charged for possessing literature of banned organisations and having link with activists of proscribed outfits but nothing had been produced before the trial court to prove such allegations, as he was not publisher, printer or author of the literature that incited hatred against the state institutions.

He questioned the arrest of the appellant by the police and submitted that no independent witnesses had been produced to prove the recovery of hatred material from the possession of the appellant despite his arrest was shown from a populated area.

The counsel submitted that the joint investigation team’s opinion had no value in the eyes of the law; besides, it failed to prove any nexus of the applicant with any proscribed organisation. He said the trial court erred in judgment by convicting the appellant as the prosecution case was full of doubts and based on fictitious grounds.

He requested the court to set aside the trial court order and acquit the appellant of the charges. The deputy prosecutor general supported the prosecution case but admitted to a court query that no direct evidence had been produced by the prosecution with regard to involvement of the appellant in publishing, printing or disseminating the proscribed material.

A division bench, comprising Justice Abdul Maalik Gaddi and Justice Rashida Asad, after hearing the arguments and perusal of the evidence of the case, for reasons to be recorded later on, set aside the conviction of the ATC and ordered Khan’s release, if not required in any other cases.

Contrary to the claim of the CTD, Khan’s family members had also approached the SHC, alleging that the journalist was picked up by law enforcers from outside his residence situated in Garden area on November 9, without disclosing the nature of any charge. The family members had said the Solider Bazaar police had been intimated about Khan’s arrest by his spouse through an application.