French journalist Peyrard released

November 5, 2001—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release of French journalist Michel Peyrard, who was imprisoned for 25 days by Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban militia. CPJ remains concerned about the continued detention of Peyrard’s guides, Pakistani nationals Mukkaram Khan and Mohammad Irfan, who remain in Taliban custody in Jalalabad.

On November 3, Taliban officials escorted Peyrard, a reporter for the French weekly Paris Match, to the Torkham border crossing in northwest Pakistan, where he was met by the French ambassador to Pakistan and Pakistani officials, according to international news reports.

Though the reasons for his release are unclear, it comes after lengthy negotiations between French government officials, Paris Match representatives, and the Taliban. Sources at Paris Match told CPJ that Peyrard is currently in Peshawar and plans to stay there until his Pakistani colleagues are released.

Upon Peyrard’s release, Taliban officials announced that Khan and Irfan would be freed on November 4. However, as of today the two remained in detention.

Khan, a correspondent for the national Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, and Irfan, an administrator at an Islamic school in Peshawar, were working as Peyrard’s guides when he entered Afghanistan under the cover of a head-to-toe burqa gown. On October 9, the three were detained about 20 miles from the eastern city of Jalalabad. [see October 9 alert]

On October 27, a spokesperson for the ruling Taliban announced that Peyrard would be tried in “a few days time,” according to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP), a Pakistan-based news agency with close links to the Taliban. Peyrard, Khan, and Irfan had been charged with spying, which is punishable by death.

The Taliban are also holding Japanese free-lance journalist Daigen Yanagida, who was detained on October 22 [see November 1 alert.] Peyrard, who was kept in the same room as Yanagida in Jalalabad, told Kyoto News Service that Yanagida had been cleared of spy charges and could be released this week.