Journalist Asad Toor arrested by FIA in connection with online campaign against superior judiciary: legal team

Published February 26, 2024
Journalist Asad Ali Toor at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad on Monday. — Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir X
Journalist Asad Ali Toor at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad on Monday. — Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir X

Journalist Asad Ali Toor was arrested by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on Monday 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.

Human rights lawyer and Toor’s counsel Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir confirmed his arrest to Dawn.com.

She said the journalist had arrived at the FIA’s Cyber Crime Reporting Centre in Islamabad earlier in the day to “demonstrate his positive intent, answer a summons notice issued to him on Saturday and join the inquiry about the campaign against the judiciary”.

She said the team went to the FIA office after acquiring an order from the Islamabad High Court, which instructed the agency to not harass the journalist but he was still taken inside the FIA premises without his legal team.

In an update posted on X at 9:05pm, Mazari-Hazir said Toor was arrested by the FIA.

Talking to Dawn.com, she said an FIA official came out of the building, delivered the legal team a handwritten note from Toor and said that the journalist was “formally arrested”. The letter seen by Dawn.com contained various instructions from the journalist for his family.

Mazari blamed his arrest on the high court’s failure to “protect fundamental rights”.

In an earlier post, Mazari said that Toor had been detained at the FIA cell for the past few hours.

“Manner in which journalists in this country are being treated is appalling. Constitutional Courts must play their role to ensure fundamental rights are not brazenly violated in this manner,” she said.

Toor’s arrest came after was interrogated for nearly eight hours on Friday by FIA officials in connection with the same case.

Toor’s counsel had posted on social media platform X that the journalist and his legal team left the FIA’s cyber crime wing headquarters at 7pm that day after his detention at 10:50am.

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

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.

‘Assault on press freedom’

Criticising the arrest, veteran journalist Hamid Mir said the agency had arrested Toor previously as well but failed to prove anything against him. “This time they will try to settle some old scores with new allegations under new government,” he said.

“The assault on press freedom in Pakistan continues to strengthen as journalists are arrested simply for reporting, asking critical questions and speaking truth to power,” hit out digital rights activist Usama Khilji.

Journalist Matiullah Jan said the arrest was “highly condemnable”. “This is a chilling reminder to the journalist community that in a hybrid system of government nothing actually changes with the elections,” he said.

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