Imprisoned journalist transferred

New York, May 17, 2004—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is deeply concerned that Sami Yousafzai, a stringer for Newsweek who was detained in late April, has been moved from a detention facility in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province to North Waziristan Agency in the country’s semi-autonomous tribal areas.

The tribal areas, which are not under the jurisdiction of Pakistan’s courts, are governed by a separate legal and criminal code under which defendants are regularly denied legal representation.

According to Yousafzai’s lawyer, Kamran Arif, the journalist could now be tried before North Waziristan’s top local official, Political Agent Sherzada Khan, though it is unclear what charges Yousafzai may face. In an interview with CPJ today, Khan said that it has not yet been determined whether Yousafzai’s case falls under the jurisdiction of tribal authorities or the Pakistani federal government.

Yousafzai, an Afghan national, was last seen on April 21, 2004, when he was detained with U.S. freelance journalist Eliza Griswold at a military checkpoint near the border area between the North West Frontier Province and the tribal areas. There are conflicting reports about the exact location of the arrest and whether they were within the jurisdiction of the tribal areas at the time.

Yousafzai, Griswold, and the car’s driver, Mohamed Salim, were arrested and taken away separately for questioning, according to local reports. Security officers in Peshawar, the regional capital, held Griswold for questioning for several hours and later released her. Yousafzai and Salim have not been heard from since their arrest. It is unclear whether Salim was transferred along with Yousafzai to Miran Shah last week.

On May 13, a lawyer hired by Yousafzai’s family, Kamran Arif, filed a habeas corpus petition before Pakistan’s High Court in Peshawar asking the court to declare Yousafazai’s and Salim’s detention unlawful under Pakistan’s constitution, and to produce the two men in the court. Hearings in the case will continue tomorrow in the High Court.