Two French journalists get 6-month jail term -Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF)

Paksitan Press Foundtion

Two French journalists get 6-month jail term

KARACHI: Two French journalists, Jean-Paul Guilloteau and Joel Marc Epstein, were convicted of violation of the Foreigners Act 1946 and sentenced to undergo six months rigorous imprisonment each by Additional District and Sessions Judge Nuzhat Ara Alvi here on Saturday.

The trial court, however, suspended the sentence handed down to them for seven days to enable them file an appeal against their conviction. The judge also imposed a fine of Rs 0.1 million on each of the convicts. The maximum punishment provided by the law is three years but the court took lenient view in award of sentence because the accused pleaded guilty when they were formally arraigned on Saturday.

The journalists of French weekly L’Express admitted before the court that they went to Quetta and stayed there from December 9 to 14 without valid permission from the concerned authorities.

The journalists were on bail granted by the Sindh High Court and they were present in the court at time of judgment. Soon after hearing the judgment, FIA authorities handcuffed them. The handcuffs, however, were removed after about two hours when the court suspended its own judgment for a period of seven days.

“The material available on record shows that the accused, Jean Paul Guilloteau s/o Michael Guilloteau and Joe Marc Epstein s/o Gabriel Epstein, in connivance with one Khawar Mehdi entered Pakistan with the intention to visit Quetta and Afghanistan and they deliberately and with mala fide intentions did not apply for visas for Quetta and illegally and without any authorisation visited Quetta and form there went to Afghanistan with Khawar Mehdi. They are guilty of professional misconduct and (they) also violated the law of the land. The accused being journalist/photographer were supposed to be representative of their country and they should have respected the law of the land,” said the judge in the judgment recording conviction of the accused.

After pronouncement of the judgment, Nafees Siddiqui, counsel for the journalists, moved an application under Section 382-A of the Code of Criminal Procedure seeking suspension of the sentence awarded to his clients to enable them file appeal against the judgment. He argued that under the law the trial court could suspend its own judgment if the imprisonment awarded to the accused is less than one year. He pleaded that his clients were French nationals belonging to honourable profession of journalism. They had never been convicted before, hence they were entitled to relief under Section 382-A CrPC.

Mehmood Alam Rizvi, the special public prosecutor for the government, raised no objection to the application which was allowed by the court and their sentence was suspended for a period of seven days.

The convicts had applied to the Pakistani Embassy in Paris for visas and the same were issued to them on September 29, 2003 and 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 on October 18. For the second time they entered Pakistan on December 7 and were scheduled to leave in the third week of December, when they were arrested by the FIA (Passport Circle) from Hotel Avari on December 16 and booked under the Foreigners Act 1946 vide FIR bearing No 270/2003.

Source: The News