LHC to resume hearing petition against anchorperson Imran Riaz’s arrest tomorrow as his whereabouts remain unknown
The Lahore High Court (LHC) will resume hearing a petition seeking the release of anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan as the journalist’s whereabouts remain unknown for the fourth day on Sunday.
In the court hearing on Friday, Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti had ordered police to produce a video record of anchorperson Imran Riaz leaving Sialkot jail after Riaz’s mother told the court he remained missing.
Speaking to Dawn.com, Riaz’s lawyer Advocate Rana Maroof Khan said that his client was arrested by the Punjab police under the Maintenance of Public Order rules — which allows preemptive detentions to ensure law and order — at the Sialkot airport on May 11 — two days after violent protests broke out across the country following PTI Chairman Imran Khan’s arrest — and taken to the Cantt police station.
He was later shifted to the Sialkot prison.
“During this time, his family had no contact with him. Afterward, certain rumours started circulating on social media so a writ petition was filed through lawyers in the LHC on the morning on May 12.
“During the hearing, the honourable chief justice directed the attorney general to present Riaz in court by afternoon the same day,” he said.
However, the lawyer went on to say, when the hearing resumed the Punjab DPO told the court that Riaz was arrested at the airport while trying to fly abroad and shifted to jail as the district government issued his detention order.
“The official added the government had withdrawn the detention order after the anchorperson submitted an affidavit and he had said the anchorperson was released from jail,” Maroof said, adding that the court had expressed displeasure over the statement and directed the official to submit CCTV footage of the journalist leaving Sialkot jail.
He told Dawn.com that the court will resume hearing the case tomorrow (May 15). “We hope sanity will prevail and Imran Riaz will be either released or brought to court on Monday.”
The lawyer also said that according to prison rules, a person could only be released from jail before sunset and not later than that. “The police in their statement have said that Riaz was released from jail at 10pm, so they will be answerable for this in court.
“They will also have to give details regarding who Riaz was handed over to after arrest,” Maroof added.
He further warned the officials that the court could take strict action if the police or jail authorities tries to mislead the court.
On the other hand, the PTI has also raised concerns over the “disappearance of Imran Riaz”.
In his first video message after release a day earlier, Imran feared that Riaz would be tortured just like Azam Swati and other PTI leaders. “We also fear that he will be killed … and if anything happens to him the same will be responsible … those who killed Arshad Sharif.”
LHC Chief Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti had ordered police to release anchorperson Aftab Iqbal and summoned the video record of anchorperson Imran Riaz leaving Sialkot jail.
Earlier, IGP Usman Anwar produced Iqbal before the court and the Sialkot DPO said Riaz had been released from jail after the withdrawal of his detention order.
The CJ had ordered the police to produce both detained media people.
The DPO told the court that Riaz was arrested at the airport while trying to fly abroad and shifted to jail as the district government issued his detention order.
However, he said, the government later withdrew the detention order after the anchorperson submitted an affidavit. He said the anchorperson was released from jail.
The CJ expressed displeasure over the statement of the DPO and warned him of strict action in case of any misleading information.
Riaz’s mother stated that the whereabouts of her son were still unknown to the family.