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Pakistani Media Mogul Acquitted Of Corruption Charges Related To Decades-Old Land Deal

Police officers and journalists surround Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, the owner and editor in chief of Jang Group, after attending court proceedings in Lahore in March 2020.

A Pakistani media mogul whose group of newspapers and television stations has been critical of the government has been acquitted of graft charges relating to allegations dating back more than 30 years.

Mir Shakilur Rahman of the Jang Group was tried on charges alleging corruption related to a land transaction in 1986. Rahman had been specifically accused of evading taxes related to the purchase a property in the city of Lahore.

A court in Lahore said in its ruling released on January 31 that "not even (an) iota of evidence regarding abetting any offence by accused/petitioner [Rahman] is available on record." It added that the prosecution's case "lies in presumptions and assumptions."

Rahman is the owner and editor in chief of the country's largest independent media group. He was arrested and detained in March 2020 by the anti-graft National Accountability Bureau (NAB). Eight months later he was released on a 10 million rupee ($63,000) bail order granted by the Pakistani Supreme Court after a lower court in Lahore rejected his request.

Media freedom watchdogs in Pakistan and abroad had expressed concerns over Rahman's detention, saying it was part of a larger crackdown on those critical of the government and the military.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said at the time of his arrest and detention that he was being held on a "spurious charge" because his journalists "dare to tackle stories that are supposed to be off-limits."

Rana Jawad, Geo TV's director of news, welcomed the verdict.

"It's a clean acquittal which is a victory of not only Jang Group, but whole media fraternity around the globe," Jawad told AFP.

Based on reporting by AFP