WASHINGTON: Matthew Craig Barrett, the American arrested by authorities in Pakistan for containing maps of a sensitive area, claims that he has already been cleared by the Supreme Court of all charges.

The statement Mr Barrett gave to investigators in Islamabad, which was later shared with US authorities, shows him to be an ordinary citizen who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

In his statement, Mr Barrett tells in some details how he happened to be in Islamabad in 2007, met his future wife, married, travelled, ended up at a security checkpost in Fateh Jang, detained, released, arrested again, produced before the Pakistan Supreme Court and allowed to return home with his wife.

“I was taken in front of the Supreme Court where I was released. All the FIRs were cleared and finished. And we decided to leave Pakistan for USA where we have lived for the next five years,” he said in the statement shared with Dawn.

According to this statement, Mr Barrett was born and raised in Huntsville, Alabama. His parent died in a car crash when he was four and was raised by his grandparents.

He and his older brother received a small insurance claim from his father, Michael Barrett, about $1,000 a month until they finished high school.

After school, Matthew Barrett travelled in Europe for a year, lived in Holland for about two years and then went in Southeast Asia and lived with his girlfriend in Indonesia for an extended period.

Once, while returning from the US, he decided to travel by land from Holland to Indonesia and that’s he first came to Pakistan in the summer of 2007, landed in Lahore and then went to Islamabad with two other travellers.

“We got off the bus in Aabpara Market and looked for a place to stay. We were walking in the direction to Melody Market when I first met my future wife Binosche Khan. She was with her dad and older sister,” he told the interrogators.

Her father stopped the travellers and told them they should not go the way they were heading.

“While he was talking to the Dutch traveller, I started to talk to Binosche. Her dad gave me his phone number and said if we needed anything to give him a call,” he said.

“I called the next day to wish Binosche happy birthday and we stayed in touch while I travelled up north.”

He then came back to Islamabad and tried to meet her. After a lot of asking, she let him take her to get something to eat on a lunch break in F-8.

“I was in love but left for Lahore on my way to India. I was talking to her and wanted her to be my girlfriend but she would not do that. So I asked her to marry me,” said Mr Barrett. “She said yes but I would have to ask her dad.”

He went back to Islamabad, asked him and he agreed. Mr Barrett travelled back to Indonesia, broke up with his girlfriend, returned to Islamabad in December 2007 and married Binosche.

The couple had their first child in November 2008 and while waiting for an immigration visa for her, the couple lived in Pakistan, travelled with their son to Thailand, came back and had another child.

“Life was good. We were planning to travel to Europe by car when Osama bin Laden was killed” in 2011, the year he was detained by Pakistani authorities, said Mr Barrett while explaining how his troubles started.

He had a Jeep and a trailer and wanted to travel to Europe in these vehicles with his family. He took the vehicles to Mardan, where his in-laws were from, for repairs and ended up in the wrong place, Fateh Jang, on one of his last trips.

“I got lost and end up in a checkpost that said no foreigners allowed. So I stopped to ask where I needed to go to get to where I was going,” he explained.

“I was detained, asked lot of questions by an (intelligence agency) guy. We did not get along. He wanted to put a hood over my head. I did not allow it. Then he received a call and was told to let me go.”

So Mr Barrett went back to Islamabad.

Soon after that, his name address and number plate was put in the newspaper. His father in law, Abdur Rehman, who is a lawyer, went to the newspaper and threatened them with legal action. So they retracted their statement the next day.

“Then two first information reports were filed on me and I was blacklisted. I was arrested from my house in E-11, taken to a police station, then taken to Fateh Jang, then Adiala Jail where I spent the next four months,” said the American who, as Interior Minister Chaudhary Nisar Ali says, was never suspected of espionage but still detained and blacklisted.

After two months in Adiala, Mr Barrett was produced before the Supreme Court and cleared of all charges.

In June, he got a visa to visit Pakistan with his family, returned earlier this month and was arrested for entering the country despite being on a list of persons who cannot visit Pakistan.

Although the interior minister has said he’s not a spy, Mr Barrett is still in detention.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2016

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