British journalist released

New York, June 6, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release of British journalist Amardeep Bassey but calls on the government to release his two Pakistani guides, Naoshad Ali Afridi and Khitab Shah Shinwari.

On May 10, Bassey, investigations editor for the British newspaper The Sunday Mercury, Afridi, and Shinwari were detained at the Torkham border crossing, near Peshawar, after crossing into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

Authorities brought the three men to Peshawar, where state security agencies questioned them.

Pakistan authorities detained Bassey because they said he did not have a proper stamp in his passport. They later suspected him of spying because his watch contained a mini-camera, according to Pakistani government authorities.

On May 25, after finding no evidence of criminal wrongdoing, local authorities issued a deportation order for Bassey and forwarded it to the Minister of the Interior’s office for approval. However, authorities did not release Bassey until June 6 and did not offer any explanation for the delay.

Bassey was expected to board a flight for Britain late tonight, according to CPJ sources in Peshawar.

Officials have not made public any charges against the guides.

Pakistani officials told local journalists that they were suspicious of Bassey because of his Indian descent. Pakistan rarely grants visas to Indian journalists or journalists of Indian origin. Once in the country, they are generally subject to intense scrutiny by Pakistan’s intelligence services.