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Pakistan Journalist Loses in Court

May 12, 1999

LAHORE, Pakistan (AP) _ A Pakistani court Wednesday dismissed a petition challenging the arrest of a prominent journalist, saying the army has a constitutional right to arrest any civilian suspected of involvement in anti-state activities.

Najam Sethi, editor and owner of the weekly English-language magazine The Friday Times, was arrested Saturday at his home in the eastern city of Lahore by the Pakistani army’s spy agency.

In throwing out the petition, Lahore High Court Judge Justice Faqir Mohammad Khokar said the army has a constitutional right to arrest any civilian suspected of anti-state activities.

Sethi’s lawyers had argued that the army’s spy agency acted beyond its jurisdiction when it arrested him. The verdict will be appealed, said Jugnoo Mohsin, Sethi’s wife, who filed the petition.

In his argument before the High Court, Deputy Attorney General Sher Zaman said Sethi had ``links with hostile intelligence agencies.″ He did not elaborate.

Earlier this week, a government statement said Sethi was arrested for alleged links to India’s spy agency. India and Pakistan are longtime rivals.

Sethi’s newspaper has criticized Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s government for muzzling the press. His arrest has sparked protests from the U.S. State Department and international human rights groups.

The U.S.-based Committee to Protect journalists said Tuesday it is ``outraged″ by the recent arrests of journalists. In a letter to Sharif, it said Sethi’s arrest has prompted ``fears that your government is engaged in a campaign to silence the country’s independent press.″

The State Department said Monday the continued media crackdown will raise ``serious doubts within the international community about the commitment of the government of Pakistan to freedom of the press and the rule of law.″

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