LONDON: The trial of 31-year-old Gohir Khan, a British Pakistani based in the United Kingdom, began at the Kingston-upon-Thames crown court on Thursday, with the prosecution revealing details of an alleged plot to murder exiled blogger and activist Ahmad Waqass Goraya who is based in Rotterdam, Netherlands.
The prosecution maintained that Khan was hired by persons who appeared to be based in Pakistan to carry out the “intended killing” of Goraya.
The financial rewards for his actions were believed to be significant, with a payment of £100,000 on offer. At the time, the prosecution claimed, the defendant was in significant debt, with no clear means of paying his creditors.
Khan was “enthusiastic” about “carrying out the killing to earn the money and to carry out further attacks” in the future, the prosecution told the jury.
Prosecution claims Gohir Khan was hired, paid by persons based in Pakistan
It described how the defendant travelled to Rotterdam and sought to locate the victim, purchasing a knife which he intended to use to kill Goraya. Unknown to him, Goraya was not at his home address in Rotterdam at the time. After a few days of unsuccessful attempts to locate the alleged victim, Khan gave up and travelled back to the UK. He was arrested on his return.
Khan was reportedly sent a picture of the blogger as well as his address by a middleman, identified by the prosecution as ‘Mudz’, ‘Zed’, and ‘Papa’.
The prosecution said evidence included messages sent and received by the defendant on mobile telephone devices, evidence of travel and attempted travel to and from Rotterdam, CCTV footage of his movements whilst in Rotterdam and evidence of his purchases whilst in the city.
The prosecution also outlined in detail the “deal between Khan and the middleman”, with an agreement of a total payment of £100,000, of which £80,000 was to be paid to the defendant and the remainder to the middleman.
Messages exchanged between Khan and the middleman show the defendant asking for information about the victim. Khan asked, “Is it a deep sea fish, or just tuna?” in an attempt to understand whether the ‘job’ was big or small.
He also said “sharks are expensive, tunas [sic] cheap”, implying that if it’s a bigger target it will cost more money. The middleman responded by saying that the target was “just tuna, but not UK tuna, European tuna. A bit of travelling involved.”
Throughout their exchange, Khan and the middleman used fish and fishing metaphors, such as fishing accessories, to refer to the job.
Khan also asked what would happen about payment if the “ship sinks”, that is if the job is unsuccessful.
In its opening statement on the first day of the trial, the prosecution said “someone wanted him [Goraya] to be killed and it may well be that the motive for killing him was linked to his political activism. Those who wanted Mr Goraya dead were prepared to pay money to ensure that happened. In short, there was a conspiracy to kill Mr Goraya”.
The question put before the jury was whether Khan was involved in that conspiracy.
The jury was told that though Khan accepts sending and receiving all of the messages admitted as evidence and accepts being the person on the CCTV travelling to and around Rotterdam, he maintains that he never intended that Mr Goraya should be killed.
Goraya is an activist and blogger who left Pakistan after he and five other bloggers were abducted and later released in Islamabad in 2017.
Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2022