ISLAMABAD: The four-year conviction of a Pakistani TV reporter in Afghanistan for allegedly entering the neighbouring country without documents has been challenged in a high court, an Afghan defence lawyer said on Wednesday.
Faizullah Khan, a reporter for ARY News, was detained by Afghan security officials in the eastern Nangarhar province in April this year.
Afghan journalists, who are familiar with the case, said Khan was taken into custody by Afghan intelligence agents after he interviewed a Taliban leader.
Hameedullah, an Afghan lawyer, confirmed that an appeal has been filed against the conviction.
The sentence was imposed by an Afghan intelligence court that specialises in threats to internal and external security.
The Afghan spy agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), had initially charged him of spying. However, an Afghan court did not accept the NDS plea and convicted him for travelling to Afghanistan without documents, and for “positively projecting the Taliban.”
The Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, is involved in the legal help of the journalist and has also paid a $1,000 fee to an Afghan lawyer, a Pakistani source in Afghanistan told The Express Tribune on Wednesday.
Pakistani officials have also provided financial assistance to the journalist, as he has not received any help from his media group, a source who is in contact with the jailed Pakistani journalist disclosed.
Pakistan embassy spokesperson, Akhtar Munir, told The Express Tribune that Pakistani diplomats have also continued discussions, with senior Afghan officials and influential personalities, to seek Khan’s release.
Munir said he had spoken to the former deputy parliamentary speaker, Mir Waiz Yasini, on Wednesday and sought his help.
An Afghan source in Islamabad said that efforts are being made to “secure the release” of the Pakistani journalist. However, he evaded more comments on the issue.
A Pakistani source in Kabul said that the diplomatic mission is also seeking suggestions from the TV channel of Faizullah on whether its seniors want to hire a lawyer of their own choice.
Reporters Without Borders has condemned the four-year jail sentence, terming it an "utterly disproportionate sentence" and asking for it "to be quashed on appeal."
“The organisation questions the court’s motives for imposing such a heavy sentence. Was it a message to foreign reporters entering Afghanistan without proper travel documents, or was it a warning to foreign reporters investigating subjects regarded as 'sensitive'?,” the organisation’s website states.
According to AFP, Khan was arrested with two TTP members on the Afghan side of the border, Wafiullah Usmani, the head of the national security court of Nangarhar said. The sentence was passed on July 9.
“We have found photos of him showing him with a gun among terrorists,” Usmani said.
Ahmad Zai Abdulzai, a spokesperson for the provincial governor, said the journalist was arrested for “threatening national security”.
Dozens of Pakistanis facing trial claim that the NDS is known for frequently charging Pakistani nationals who go to Afghanistan for 'spying'.
A man from Swabi says that his son, who had gone for labour in Afghanistan, had been awarded a 17-year jail sentence. The man recently visited Kabul, and sought help from the embassy to seek the release of his son claiming he is innocent.
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