British journalist detained on suspicion of espionage

May 15, 2002

His Excellency Gen. Pervez Musharraf
President, Islamic Republic of Pakistan
Islamabad, Pakistan

Via facsimile: 92-51-922-4206

Your Excellency:

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned about the detention of Amardeep Bassey, investigations editor for the British newspaper The Sunday Mercury, and his two Pakistani guides, Naoshad Ali Afridi and Khitab Shah Shinwari. Pakistani officials have told journalists that Bassey is being held on suspicion of espionage.

Bassey, a British citizen, and his guides were arrested on May 10 at the Torkham border crossing, near Peshawar, on their way back into Pakistan from Afghanistan. An Interior Ministry official told The Associated Press that Bassey had failed to obtain an exit visa before leaving Pakistan.

Bassey, Afridi, and Shinwari are currently detained in Landi Kotal, a Pakistani town at the mouth of the Khyber Pass. They are being interrogated by members of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) and other state security agencies, according to local and international news reports.

The British Foreign Office said that Bassey was one of five accredited journalists on a recent trip to Afghanistan sponsored by the British government, but that he was working independently at the time of his arrest.

Pakistani officials told local journalists that they are suspicious of Bassey because of his Indian descent. An activist with the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan who has visited Bassey in detention said the journalist was accused of working as a spy for neighboring India.

Indian journalists and journalists of Indian origin are rarely granted visas to report in Pakistan. Once in the country, they are generally subject to intense scrutiny by Pakistan’s intelligence services.

Bassey is an award-winning journalist who has filed stories from Peshawar, Kabul, and Birmingham. There is no evidence whatsoever to support the allegation that he is a spy. CPJ respectfully asks Your Excellency to order the prompt release of Amardeep Bassey and his two colleagues, Naoshad Ali Afridi and Khitab Shah Shinwari.

We thank you for your attention to this urgent matter and await your response.


Ann Cooper
Executive Director