Anchorperson Imran Riaz released after Lahore court discharges him in fresh case

0
225
Anchorperson Imran Riaz released

The Lahore police on Friday released anchorperson Imran Riaz Khan after a local court discharged him from a fresh case in which he was arrested a day ago.

Riaz was taken into custody at the Allama Iqbal International Airport late on Tuesday night in a case of monetary fraud.

The visuals of the arrest, which showed the journalist clad in an ihram as he was departing for Saudi Arabia for Haj, had gone viral on social media, with the PTI calling for his release.

The police had sought his seven-day physical remand in Wednesday’s hearing before the Model Town Court judicial magistrate.

The prosecutor had said that the anchorperson had borrowed Rs0.25 billion from the complainant but never returned the money. After hearing arguments from both sides, Judicial Magistrate Muhammad Kamran Zafar reserved the verdict and granted police Riaz’s one-day physical remand.

Announcing the verdict on Thursday, the judge had discharged the anchorperson from the fraud case.

However, Riaz was later arrested outside the court in a separate case concerning interference with the police, which was registered at the Sarwar Road police station and said he had damaged a barrier near the Lahore airport.

Today, the anchorperson was presented before Judicial Magistrate Hafiz Kashif while Advocates Mian Ali Ashfaq and Rana Maroof appeared as his counsels.

The prosecution sought Riaz’s physical remand of 10 days “on the ground that remaining accused persons are to be arrested” based on the anchorperson pointing them out.

After hearing arguments from both sides and perusing the case record, the judicial magistrate discharged Riaz from the case.

In the written order, a copy of which is available with Dawn.com, the judge noted that there was “nothing on the record to suggest that the accused was driving a vehicle at the time of alleged occurrence”.

It observed that no statement of any of the eyewitnesses was recorded either.

“No evidence is available on the record to suggest that the accused Imran Riaz Khan used any assault or criminal force to deter a public servant from discharge of his duties,” the judge said, noting that the record was also silent about how the anchor had obstructed a public servant’s duties.

Observing that the evidence against Riaz was “deficient”, the judge ordered his release if he was not wanted in any other case.

Subsequently, the anchorperson was released by the Sarwar Road police.

Ashfaq released visuals of the anchor after his release on social media platform X.

Maroof said those who had concocted false cases against Riaz were defeated.

Arrest and rearrest
Riaz was arrested two days after violent protests broke out across the country following PTI founder Imran Khan’s arrest on May 9, 2023.

He was known to be taken to Cantt police station after his arrest and later to the Sialkot prison. On May 15, 2023, a law officer had told the Lahore High Court (LHC) that the anchorperson was released from jail after taking an undertaking in writing. His whereabouts, however, remained unknown.

Subsequently, an FIR of Riaz’s alleged abduction was registered with Sialkot Civil Lines police on May 16, 2023, on the complaint of the anchorperson’s father, Muhammad Riaz.

The FIR was registered against “unidentified persons” and police officials for allegedly kidnapping Riaz, invoking PPC Section 365 (kidnapping or abducting with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person).

The journalist’s father had also filed a plea in the LHC for his recovery.

During a May 19, 2023, hearing of the case, the anchorperson’s father had become teary-eyed in the LHC, pleading for mercy, as the whereabouts of his son remained unknown. The next day, the LHC chief justice had ordered the police to recover and present the anchorperson by May 22 last year.

On that date, the LHC had directed the ministries of interior and defence to “discharge their constitutional duties to effect the recovery” of the anchorperson after the Punjab inspector general revealed that there was no trace of the journalist at any police department across the country.

The LHC was subsequently informed that both the Inter-Services Intelligence and the Military Intelligence had said the anchorperson was not in their custody. On May 26 last year, the high court had directed “all the agencies” to work together to find the anchorperson and produce him in the court by May 30, 2023.

When that date arrived, the Punjab police chief had told the LHC that phone numbers that had been traced back to Afghanistan were involved in the case.

The anchorperson’s lawyer had contended in the June 6 hearing last year that their patience was “wearing thin” even as the Punjab government had informed the high court that efforts to find the journalist were underway.

During the July 5 hearing, the LHC had established a deadline of July 25 for the police to locate the missing journalist. However, no hearing could be held on the designated date due to the bench’s unavailability.

In that particular hearing, retired Brigadier Falak Naz, representing the Ministry of Defence, had informed the court: “We are working on tracing locations and other issues. We are trying to recover Imran Riaz as soon as possible.”

On September 6, the Punjab police chief had told LHC that the police would deliver “good news” in the next few days, following which he was granted time till September 13.

However, failing to deliver any major “good news”, the police chief on September 13 had assured the court that the probe was “going in the right direction”.

On September 20, the LHC had given the Punjab police chief a “last opportunity” to recover Riaz by September 26, adjourning the proceedings in a petition demanding his recovery till then.

He was finally released on September 25, after more than four months of “being missing”.

Earlier this year, Riaz was arrested in a graft case about the contract of Dhrabi Lake in Chakwal and was later granted bail by a special court. However, the anchorperson was rearrested in another case pertaining to violence outside Imran’s Zaman Park residence.

On March 10, an anti-terrorism court had granted him post-arrest bail against surety bonds worth Rs200,000.