Asad Ali Toor interrogated for hours by FIA in connection with alleged campaign against superior judiciary

Published February 23, 2024
Journalist Asad Ali Toor after his interrogation by the Federal Investigation Agency was on Friday.  — Photo courtesy Voicepk.net
Journalist Asad Ali Toor after his interrogation by the Federal Investigation Agency was on Friday. — Photo courtesy Voicepk.net

Journalist Asad Ali Toor was on Friday interrogated for nearly eight hours by Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) officials in connection with allegations of a “malicious campaign” against the superior judiciary in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to deprive PTI of its iconic ‘bat’ symbol before elections.

Toor’s counsel and human rights lawyer Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir posted on social media platform X that the journalist and his legal team left the FIA’s cyber crime wing headquarters at 7pm after his detention at 10:50am.

Toor thanked his legal team and his supporters for their help and solidarity throughout the incident, saying that he faced a “tough time”.

Prior to his release, Mazari told Dawn.com: “We have been here (at the FIA’s cyber crime wing headquarters) since 10-11am. They (FIA officials) made the lawyers leave the room and took him to another room.

“They’ve been investigating him alone for two hours. No list of allegations has been provided. We don’t know what they’re investigating him for. He’s not allowed access to counsel during this and we are still waiting in the FIA.”

She further alleged that Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa was “a party to this and is fully aware of what is happening”.

Talking to digital media platform Voicepk.net, she said Toor was not served any notice but was alerted about his summon by the FIA via social media. She said Toor and his legal team complied with the summon to join the investigation as a display of the journalist’s positive intent.

She said Toor had asked for the list of allegations against him so he could submit a detailed written response. “It’s been six hours since 11am that we are sitting here,” Mazari said, adding that the legal team was asked to leave Toor.

“We were told that there is no list of allegations and the investigation will begin when the legal team leaves the room.”

Mazari said the legal team was not aware of the questions being asked of Toor.

She added that the notice was about a campaign against the judiciary.

“I think this is very unfortunate that some Supreme Court judges, or the chief justice, are abusing the FIA’s coercive power against journalists who speak the truth and criticise decisions which is the right of every citizen.”

Dawn.com has reached out to the FIA for comment on the matter.

Mazari’s account was also corroborated by digital rights activist Usama Khilji, who was also at the FIA cyber crime wing headquarters. He said Toor was served a follow-up notice in a case that saw several journalists accused of carrying out a vilification campaign against the judiciary, particularly CJP Isa, before the elections.

The interrogation happened despite the Attorney General for Pakistan assuring the Supreme Court last month that the FIA would not take action before the general election on the notices sent to journalists. The apex court had adjourned the hearing in the case till the first week of March.

Khilji said Toor was not served the follow-up notice directly but learnt of it through social media, following which he decided to show up at the FIA’s cyber crime wing headquarters voluntarily with his legal team at 11am.

The FIA officials, he said, told the legal team it could not accompany Toor and that the agency wanted to interrogate him alone.

Khilji said that Toor’s lawyers told the FIA officials that it was a violation of the law and that they wanted to stay with him during the course of the interrogation.

Khilji added it was unclear if Toor was officially “arrested or illegally detained”.

Khilji told Dawn.com that the main issue was that “journalists are being targeted over their social media activity”.

“If you’re calling someone at 11am then why not investigate them and let them go? This is a deliberate harassment of journalists,” he said, adding that it violated Article 19 of the Constitution by undermining the freedom of the press.

A day ago, the government and the legal community came out against a “malicious and slanderous campaign” against CJP Isa based on a decision of the Supreme Court, saying that some elements had used completely false and forged information to incite violence and hatred.

Talking about the campaign against the chief justice, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi had said that social media platforms like X, YouTube and Instagram had their responsibilities and if they were unable to contain such activities, the government had the right to take appropriate action. However, he did not define what he meant by “appropriate action”.

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