An Islamabad district and session court on Tuesday granted the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) five-day remand of journalist Asad Ali Toor in a case pertaining to an online campaign against the judiciary.

In January, the car­e­taker government had formed a five-member joint investigation team (JIT) to “ascertain facts behind a malicious social media campaign” against the judiciary in the aftermath of the Supreme Court’s decision to deprive PTI of its iconic ‘bat’ symbol.

Last week, Toor was interrogated for nearly eight hours by FIA officials on the same matter. The interrogation had taken place despite the attorney general for Pakistan assuring the apex 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.

Last night, Toor’s legal team confirmed that he had been arrested by the agency. Toor’s counsel Imaan Zainab Mazari-Hazir 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.

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.

Today, Toor was presented before Judicial Magistrate Mohammad Shabbir. During the hearing, the FIA sought the journalist’s physical remand.

Subsequently, the court accepted the requested and remanded Toor in FIA’s custody for for five days.

Arrest condemned

Reacting to Toor’s arrest, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) said it was “seriously concerned by the news”.

“He should be released immediately and any curbs on freedom of expression removed promptly,” the HRCP said.

The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHR) also expressed its concern over Toor’s arrest, in a post on X.

“NCHR is deeply concerned by the arrest of journalist Asad Toor. The PECA law is a problematic law that needs thorough review. Freedom of speech and information is a fundamental right which must be upheld at all costs.”

Human rights lawyer and Toor’s counsel Imaan Zainab-Mazari-Hazir said in a post on X, “Asad standing tall despite his unlawful arrest.”

Former PPP leader Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar termed the arrest “another blow for freedom of expression”.

“Before judiciary goes out on a witch hunt perhaps they should take a moment out to reflect on their own shortcomings. Their record has never been anything to write home about!” he said.

In a statement, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called on authorities to “immediately and unconditionally release Toor, and to cease harassing him for his journalistic work”.

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