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KARACHI: An anti-terrorism court on Wednesday granted bail to a journalist detained on a charge of fanning religious disharmony.

According to the charge-sheet filed by the Counter-Terrorism Department against Nasrullah Khan Chaudhry with the administrative judge of the antiterrorism courts on Nov 20, he was carrying some journals and booklets about Afghan Jihad and the Punjabi Taliban containing material intended to sow discord on sectarian grounds as well as to motivate people to take part in Jihad.

Mr Khan works for Urdu-language daily Nai Baat.

His arrest by the Counter-Terrorism Depart­ment on Nov 11 sparked widespread protests by journalists and civil society groups. They described it as an attempt to justify a raid by law enforcement agencies on the Karachi Press Club three days before his arrest.

On Wednesday, the ATC-VIII judge, who is conducting Mr Khan’s trial in the judicial complex inside Karachi’s central prison, pronounced his verdict, which he had reserved a day earlier after hearing arguments from both sides.

The judge granted post-arrest bail to Mr Khan against a surety bond of Rs100, 000.

The court directed the jail superintendent to release the applicant immediately if his custody was not required in any other case. However, his release order was not issued by the court since surety could not be deposited before the end of office hours.

Defence counsel Muhammad Farooq said in the bail petition for Mr Khan that the allegations levelled by the prosecution were false.

The investigating officer (IO) named five prosecution witnesses in the charge-sheet and repeatedly cited the name of Khalid Mukshi in the remand papers and the charge-sheet, alleging that he was a leader of Al Qaeda and that the detained journalist had links to him.

The IO did not name Mukshi as an accused or absc­o­nder in the charge-sheet.

Accepting the charge-sheet, the ATC’s administrative judge sent the case to ATC-VIII for trial.

The CTD booked the journalist under Section 11-F (i) of the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1997 (a person is guilty of an offence if he belongs, or professes to belong, to a proscribed organisation), Section 11-W(i) (printing, publishing or disseminating any material to incite hatred or giving projection to any person convicted for a terrorist act or any proscribed organisation or an organisation placed under observation or anyone concerned in terrorism) and Section 7.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2018