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Pakistan Charges 2 Detained Journalists

June 22, 2006

KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ Two Pakistani journalists appeared in court Thursday for their first time since being detained three months ago while filming at an air base in southern Pakistan. A relative said one of the men had been tortured in custody.

The television reporter and cameraman were accused of leaking official secrets and faced seven years in prison if convicted. Police have filed initial complaints against the two, and a judge is to decide whether to formally charge them.

Reporter Mukesh Rupeta, from the independent channel Geo TV, and cameraman Sunjev Kumar were detained March 6 for filming at the Jacobabad base in the southern province of Sindh, senior police investigator Manzoor Khoso said. The air base has previously been used by U.S.-led coalition forces.

Rupeta’s brother, Ghan Sham, said he saw his brother Wednesday night at a police station shortly after he was turned over by intelligence agents, and he appeared ``very thin and weak″ and had been tortured.

``His face was clean-shaven before his arrest, but when I saw him, he had a long beard and looked very pale and had been tortured,″ Sham told reporters at the police station, declining to elaborate on the claim.

Pakistani officials did not immediately respond to calls seeking a response to the accusation.

Sham said the two journalists had been initially seized at the base by intelligence agents attached to Pakistan’s military and were held by them until being turned over to police Wednesday.

Khoso acknowledged the men were turned over to police Wednesday, but did not specify who initially detained them. They were handed over to police after Geo TV issued a statement saying they were being held without charge.

The accusation of revealing official secrets relates to the filming of a military base. The Jacobabad air base was used by U.S.-led coalition forces to support operations in Afghanistan after their 2001 invasion toppled the hard-line Taliban regime.

The court hearing came nearly a week after another missing journalist was found shot dead in the North Waziristan region. Hayatullah Khan vanished Dec. 5 and his handcuffed body was found Friday. He had been shot in the back.

No one has claimed responsibility, but his relatives have accused Pakistan’s main spy agency of abducting him. The government denies it.

Khan was abducted days after photographing shrapnel from a Hellfire missile allegedly fired by an unmanned American warplane that killed an Egyptian al-Qaida figure, Hamza Rabia. The photos contradicted a Pakistani statement that Rabia had died in a bomb-making accident.

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