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Pakistani Court Removes Arrest Order, Travel Restrictions For Prominent Journalist

Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida
Dawn journalist Cyril Almeida

A Pakistani court has ordered that a prominent journalist's name be removed from a list of people who cannot fly out of the country and the arrest warrant against him withdrawn.

The Lahore High Court in Punjab Province issued the orders on October 8 as it was hearing a petition that seeks to charge former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, his successor Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, and Cyril Almeida, a correspondent at the English-language Dawn newspaper, with treason over comments critical of the country's powerful military.

The three reject the allegations against them.

Rights groups and legal associations say there is no justification to charge anybody for criticizing any institution.

The case was adjourned until October 22.

It relates to an interview published in May during which Sharif alleged the army was backing militants who carried out the deadly attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008.

India has repeatedly accused Pakistan's intelligence agency of helping the Lashkar-e Taiba militant group carry out the attack. Pakistan has denied any state involvement.

After the publication of the interview, Pakistan's National Security Council held a meeting to deliberate on the matter.

Abbasi, who was prime minister at the time, is accused of sharing the details of the meeting with Sharif.

Almeida, who conducted the interview, had faced arrest if he failed to appear before the court and had been barred from leaving the country.

Human rights groups and unions for media workers have protested threats to media freedom in Pakistan.

Sharif was disqualified from office by the Supreme Court last year over corruption allegations and was sentenced by an accountability court in July to 10 years in prison.

He has denied wrongdoing and suggested collusion between the country's military and courts to push him out of power.

Abbasi replaced Sharif as prime minister before an election earlier this year brought cricket star-turned-politician Imran Khan to power.

With reporting by Dawn and Reuters
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