French journalists awarded jail term -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

French journalists awarded jail term

KARACHI, Jan 10: The two French journalists were sentenced on Saturday to a six-month jail term for violating visa regulations by an additional district and sessions court.

Joel Marc Epstein and Jeon Paul Gullateau, reporter and photographer, respectively, of the French weekly L’Express, were also fined Rs100,000 each by Judge Nuzhat Ara Alvi.

The two, who were convicted after they pleaded guilty, were arrested in mid December last for travelling to Quetta without permission. They claimed to have visited a group of Taliban in Kandahar, where they also interviewed a local commander.

The French journalists, who had visas only for Karachi, Islamabad and Lahore, were charged with visiting Quetta and its adjoining areas without permission. They were booked under Sections 3 (2) (a) (e), and 13/14 of the Foreigners Act, 1946.

The judge asked them if they had been pressured from any corner to plead guilty to the charged offences or given assurance that a lenient view would be taken in case they pleaded guilty. However, both of them replied in the negative in the court.

Mr Epstein stated before the court he had been visiting Pakistan since 1994. He said he was granted a double entry visa at the Pakistan Embassy in Paris.

He said he arrived in Quetta on Dec 9 by air. He said he left Quetta and was taken to a house in a village. He said he was taken blindfolded to Afghanistan where he interviewed several persons, who claimed to be the Taliban.

The journalist submitted that he returned to Quetta on Dec 14. He said his flight was cancelled due to bad weather and he rented a car to go to Karachi.

Jean Paul Guilloteau stated that he arrived in Karachi on Dec 7 and reached Quetta on Dec 9 by air.

The judge in her ordered observed: “The material available on record of the case shows that accused Jean Paul Guilloteau and Joel Marc Epstein entered Pakistan with intention to visit Quetta and Afghanistan and they deliberately and with malafide intentions did not apply for visas for Quetta and illegally and without any authorisation visited Quetta and from there they went to Afghanistan with Khawar Mehdi, they are guilty of professional misconduct and also violated the law of the land. Both the accused … were supposed to be representatives of their country and they should have respected the law of the land”.

She also remarked: “Furthermore, if a visa could have been granted for visiting Karachi, Lahore, and Islamabad, the government of Pakistan would have certainly granted visa for Quetta also if applied”.The judge gave the two journalist to the judicial custody to serve out the sentence.

Source: Dawn
Date:1/11/2004