Bail plea of French journalists rejected -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Bail plea of French journalists rejected

KARACHI, Dec 20: A court on Saturday rejected bail requests by two French journalists who were arrested for violating their visa restrictions by visiting Quetta. “Judge Nuzhat Ara Alvi on Saturday rejected the bail application after asking reporter Mark Epstein and photographer Jean Paul Guilloteau of L’Express magazine whether they went to Quetta and Afghanistan,” the pair’s lawyer Nafees Siddiqui told AFP.

“The journalists, produced hand-cuffed in court, told the judge that they went to Quetta, but they did not go to Afghanistan,” Mr Siddiqui said.

Prosecutor Mumtazul Hasan said before the hearing that the pair should not be granted bail because “they violated specific permission given to them.”

“According to fresh information, they went to Afghanistan and then entered back to Pakistan illegally,” Mr Hasan said.

Mr Siddiqui argued before the judge that his clients were professional journalists and they had valid visas for Pakistan, but admitted that they had no permission to go to Quetta.

He asked the court to release the journalists because investigations had been completed and a final chargesheet against them had been submitted in court.

The lawyer further said he would file on Monday an appeal against bail rejection in the Sindh High Court. Meanwhile, his clients had been sent to jail.

Reporters Sans Frontiers called for their immediate release and raised concern at the unknown whereabouts of their Pakistani assistant, Khawar Mehdi Rizvi, who accompanied them to Quetta.

In a statement, the international body of journalists criticized the imposition of visa and travel restrictions on foreign reporters as “obstructing investigative journalism”.

It urged the Pakistani government to review its rules regarding the provision of visas to foreign journalists. Police confiscated a computer and notebook from Mr Epstein, and digital camera memory cards and videotapes from Mr Guilloteau, according to the organization.-AFP

Source: Dawn
Date:12/21/2003