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Non-Bailable Warrant Against Pak Scribe Almeida for ‘Treason’

The Pak court has ordered to place him on the no-fly list, after he failed to appear in court after three notices.

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The Lahore Court on Monday, 25 September ordered the arrest of a well-known Pakistani journalist Cyril Almeida on charges of “leaking sensitive material”, reported Bloomberg.

The court issued a non-bailable warrant against Almeida, a reporter for English-language daily Dawn and has ordered to place him on the no-fly list or Exit Control List, after he failed to appear in the court even after three notices.

Former prime ministers, Nawaz Sharif and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, were also summoned to appear before the judges on the same day.

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The Pakistani journalist took to Twitter to confirm the news and said, “Spoke to the lawyer, there is a warrant, am back on the ECL (Exit Control List) and will have to appear before the court on 8 October. How's your Monday been?”

The next date of hearing is on 8 October in which Almeida and Zafar Abbas, the editor of Dawn will be appearing before the court.

The notice served on Cyril Almeida was delivered at Dawn’s Islamabad bureau in the middle of last week, and journalists and officials at the bureau say the earlier two notices were never delivered.
Zafar Abbas, Editor of Dawn, reported The Wire

“Mr Almeida, like all Dawn staffers, is a law abiding citizen, and sincerely believes in the rule of law. He is a seasoned journalist and has never shied away from such matters,” he added.

The Pakistani editor also urged the court to withdraw Almeida’s name from the no-fly list and also the arrest warrant issued against him.

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The Case Against Cyril Almeida

The case pertaining to the Dawn journalist pertains to an interview in May 2018, in which the former Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif had allegedly claimed that those involved in the 2008 Mumbai attacks in India were from Pakistan, reported The Wire.

Another former Prime Minister of Pakistan Shahid Khaqan Abbasi has also been implicated in the case.

The petitioner, Amina Malik, sought action against Sharif for “defaming state institutions” and said that his “anti-state” statement could be used against Pakistan by its enemies, according to The Wire.

Malik claimed that Abbasi had told Sharif about the military leadership’s concern regarding his statement. The petitioner further said that since these concerns were disclosed in a National Security Council (NSC) meeting, it was allegedly a clear violation of his oath as he was bound not to allow his personal interest to influence his official conduct.

The court had issued a notice to Almeida to file a response to the treason charge against Nawaz and Abbasi.

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HRCP Terms Pak Court’s Decision to Arrest Cyril Almeida as ‘Regrettable’

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in a statement on Tuesday expressed concern over the issuance of the arrest warrant issued against Almeida.

"The HRCP is greatly perturbed to learn that the LHC has issued a non-bailable arrest warrant for journalist Cyril Almeida, requiring him to appear at the next hearing of a case seeking action against former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on charges of treason," said HRCP Chairman Dr Mehdi Hasan in his statement, according to Dawn.

The HRCP termed the court’s decision “regrettable”, adding that “Mr Almeida, a widely read and highly respected journalist, is being hounded for nothing more than doing his job — speaking on the record to a political figure and reporting the facts.”

"As a law-abiding citizen, Mr Almeida has no reason not to appear before the court as directed. Placing him on the Exit Control List (ECL) and issuing a non-bailable warrant is an excessive measure."

"The ease with which Mr Almeida’s interview with the former prime minister was perceived as an attempt to allegedly defame state institutions, and the pace at which this has spiralled into charges of treason, only serve to further choke press freedom in Pakistan," the statement added.

The HRCP also urged the court "to give Mr Almeida the opportunity to appear at the scheduled hearing of his own volition and to have his name removed from the ECL immediately."

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‘Treating Almeida Like a Criminal Is Shocking’

In a statement issued by Pakistan People’s Party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, he said, “Treating Almeida like he is a criminal and trying him for treason no less is shocking! This adds on to the perception that media is under siege in Pakistan. Mr Almeida was doing his job — nothing less, nothing more.”

Expressing his surprise and dismay on the issuance of arrest warrant for Almeida, Bhutto said that the Pakistani media is already facing the worst kind of censorship.

Dictators who have abrogated the Constitution and have actually committed treason are roaming free while journalists who are only doing their jobs are being tried for treason.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Pakistan People’s Party Chairman said in his statement

He further said that Almeida broke no law by interviewing former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. “Why should a journalist not interview someone? What law stops a journalist from interviewing a politician?”

The PPP chairman also said that the PPP stands by freedom of expression and wants a free media in Pakistan. “Democracy without a free media is a sham democracy,” he added.

(With inputs from Bloomberg, The Wire and Dawn.)

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