An Afghan court on Sunday ordered the release of imprisoned Pakistani TV reporter, who was awarded four years in prison in July, on charges of travelling to the neighbouring country without documents, Pakistani officials in Afghanistan and his family said.
Faizullah Khan, a reporter for ARY News, was detained by Afghan security officials in the eastern Nangarhar province in April this year. Some reports had earlier suggested Faizullah was on assignment to interview Taliban leaders as part of his professional duties.
“I can confirm that a high court in Jalalabad on Sunday ordered Faizullah Khan’s release,” the Pakistani Embassy Spokesperson Akhtar Munir told The Express Tribune from Kabul via phone.
The Afghan spy agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS), had initially charged Faizullah of spying. However, the judge did not accept the NDS’s plea and convicted him for travelling to Afghanistan without documents, and for “positively projecting the Taliban.”
Later, an intelligence court convicted Faizullah for illegal entry and “positive projection of militants.”
Faizullah’s lawyer had challenged his conviction in a high court in eastern Nangarhar province.
The order came during the second hearing of the case in the high court. Munir added that the release would take some time after completion of official work.
“I spoke to Faizullah Khan this morning and he confirmed his release,” Saniya Khan, Faizullah’s wife told The Express Tribune.
Faizullah’s wife thanked the Pakistani government, Pakistani missions and journalists for their support. She further added that Malala Yousafzai had also appealed to Afghan President Hamid Karzai for her husband’s release.
Faizullah’s father Qari Farhad also confirmed his son’s release via phone from Karachi.
On September 16, an Afghan High Court had a brief hearing of the appeal in the presence of Faizullah. An Afghan prosecutor from the NDS had read out a “charge-sheet” against Faizullah and had sought an enhanced sentence for him.
However, the government of Pakistan was pursuing the case as Foreign Office Spokesperson Tasnim Aslam stated last week.
The Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad, the capital of the Nangarhar province in Afghanistan, was involved in the legal help of Faizullah.
Further, international and Pakistani media groups had condemned the Afghan court’s verdict and had demanded his immediate release.
Reporters Without Borders had termed it an “utterly disproportionate sentence” and asked for it “to be quashed on appeal.”
“The organisation questions the court’s motives for imposing such a heavy sentence. Was it a message to foreign reporters entering Afghanistan without proper travel documents, or was it a warning to foreign reporters investigating subjects regarded as ‘sensitive’?,” the organisation said in a statement.