Man in UK court over plot to kill blogger activist

Published July 20, 2021
A plea hearing has been set for October 29 with a trial starting in January 2022. — AFP/File
A plea hearing has been set for October 29 with a trial starting in January 2022. — AFP/File

LONDON: The 31-year-old British-Pakistani man charged with conspiring to murder a Pakistani blogger in the Netherlands appeared in court on Monday.

Mohammad Gohir Khan of Forest Gate in East London appeared at the Old Bailey via video link from custody during a preliminary hearing of the case.

A plea hearing has been set for October 29 with a trial starting in January 2022.

Justice Sweeney said the case would be heard at Kingston Court.

The case was on the terror-related case list, but Khan has not been charged under the Terrorism Act (TACT) 2000. He has been charged under Section 1(1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977.

A statement from the Crown Prosecution Service said that Khan, born on February 16, 1990, was charged on June 28 with one count of conspiracy to murder Ahmad Waqas Goraya. “The exact charge is that between the 16th day of February 2021 and the 24th day of June 2021 [he] conspired together with persons unknown to murder Ahmad Waqas Goraya…”

Waqas Goraya is an activist and blogger who left Pakistan after he and five other bloggers were abducted and later released in Islamabad in 2017. The abductions were widely criticised by rights groups, opposition lawmakers and activists who called on the government to end enforced disappearances. He moved to the Netherlands later that year, claiming he feared for his life and safety.

In February 2020, the blogger was attacked and threatened outside his home in Rotterdam, an incident that was condemned by Reporters Without Borders that called on the Dutch authorities to protect the blogger.

However, Goraya told Dawn that the arrest of the British-Pakistani man was not connected to the 2020 attack. It was linked to an incident that took place on February 12, 2021 when the Dutch police approached him and informed him that his life was in danger, he said, adding that he was shifted from home to a secure place.

In the first week of July, the blogger said, the British police visited him in the Netherlands to record his statement.

Suspect Khan, who also reportedly came from London on February 12, stayed in Amsterdam for three days, hired a car and visited the locality where Goraya lived.

Published in Dawn, July 20th, 2021

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