SHC grants bail, ADJ fixes Jan 10 for indictment indictment
KARACHI: Justice Zawwar Hussain Jaferi of the Sindh High Court on Tuesday granted bail to the two French journalists booked under the Foreigners Act 1946 and directed them to furnish sureties in the sum of Rs0.1million each and execute personal bond in the like amount.
In a separate event, the trial judge of the case, Additional District and Sessions Judge Nuzhat Ara Alvi, supplied copies of 161 CrPC statements and charge sheet to the accused, Jean Paul Guilloteau and Joel Mark Epstein, respectively, photographer and reporter of the French weekly, ‘L’ Express, and fixed January 10 for arraigning them in the case.
Earlier, their bail application was dismissed by the trial court with the observation that their act of visiting Quetta without proper permission and in contravention to their visa conditions showed some ulterior motives on their part.
While arguing their bail applications, their counsel, Nafees A Siddiqui, pleaded that his clients were working journalists and respectable citizen of France. They had been falsely implicated by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). Nothing incriminating was recovered from them. They were arrested from Karachi and they had a valid permission to visit Karachi. The counsel has pleaded that the applicants were apprehended on mere suspicion or at whims by the FIA and ex facie the offence they were alleged of in the FIR is not at all of serious nature. “Visiting of a place, or a city, in Pakistan not mentioned in visa specifically is a mere irregularity and in absence of any mens rea is curable by grant of post fact permission/authorisation by the concerned authorities in Pakistan,” the counsel has pleaded in the applications. The counsel pleaded that the accused applied to the Pakistani Embassy in Paris for visas which were issued to them on September 29, 2003 which were valid up to March 28, 2004. They entered Pakistan for the first time on October 12, 2003 and after partly completing their assignment left Pakistan on October 18, 2003. For the second time they entered Pakistan on December 7, 2003 and were scheduled to leave for their country after completing their assignment in the third week of December 2003, when they were detained by the FIA (Passport Circle) and an FIR bearing number 270/2003 was lodged against them on December 16, 2003.
Mehmood Alam Rizvi, standing counsel for the federal government, submitted that the offence the two journalists were charged with carried a maximum punishment of three years. He said superior courts normally grant bail in such cases. After hearing both the lawyers, Justice Jaferi granted bail to the two accused.
The case was also fixed before the trial court for further proceedings. The FIA’s prosecutor, Syed Isarar Ali, submitted that the FIA would not submit any supplementary charge sheet and the charge sheet submitted earlier be treated as final.
The counsel for the accused, Nafees A Siddiqui, pleaded that the Sindh High Court had granted bail to the accused and requested the trial court to order release of their passports. The court refused the request and fixed January 10 for framing charges against the two journalists.
Source: The News