French journalists move SHC
KARACHI, Dec 22: Two French journalists, booked and detained here under the Foreigners’ Act for violating the visa rules, moved the Sindh High Court for bail on Monday.
Marc Epstein and Jean Paul Guilloteau, reporter and photographer of the Paris-based weekly, L’Express, were arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency at a local hotel on Dec 16 for allegedly visiting Quetta in violation of visa restrictions and making a documentary on Taliban during their four-day stay in Balochistan.
According to prosecution counsel, Mumtazul Hasan, they also crossed over to Afghanistan during their sojourn to Balochistan. A case was registered against them by the FIA under Section 14(2) of the Foreigners’ Act.
The accused journalists first approached the trial sessions court for bail on Dec 20. In reply to a court query, they admitted that they went to Quetta without a visa but denied having visited Afghanistan. Additional sessions judge (district west) Nuzhat Ara Alvi rejected the bail plea after their admission.
Their counsel, Advocate Nafees Siddiqui, said in the fresh bail petition before the high court that the sessions court erred in holding that the journalists were not entitled to bail.
All offences mentioned in the first information report against them were bailable and the provisions of Section 14 (2) of the Foreigners’ Acr were not attracted. Visiting a place in Pakistan not specified in the visa was a mere irregularity in the absence of mens rea (guilty mind) and could be cured by grant of ex post facto permission, he submitted in the new bail plea.