Journalist Shahzeb Jillani’s interim bail was once against extended on Wednesday in a case against him for expressing his opinion about state institutions.
South District and Sessions Judge Imdad Hussain Khoso adjourned the hearing till Saturday, April 27.
The case has been filed under the Pakistan Penal Code and the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Act.
Jillani is a senior journalist who has worked with BBC News for many years in Washington, Beirut, and London. He has written for The Friday Times, The News, Deutsche Welle among other places. He has worked in television, print, online and radio.
The FIA registered a case against Jillani on April 6 on a complaint filed by Maulvi Muhammad Iqbal Haider, an advocate. The complaint was filed on March 28.
The investigating officer, Akbar Khan Mahsood, accused Jillani of using “disrespectful” language against state institutions. He read out a tweet by him for which he is being investigated for cyberterrorism. The tweet is mentioned in the FIR.
Jillani’s lawyer Salman Mirza argued that the remarks made by his client did not fall within the sections of cybercrime law mentioned in the FIR.
For his part, the investigating officer argued that Jillani should be arrested for his remarks.
Judge Khoso commented on the absence of FIA prosecutor Zakir Hussain Khan. He asked about the charge sheet, which has yet to be submitted. The FIA has been instructed to file the challan by the next hearing.
The FIR was registered against Jillani under sections 10(a) (cyber terrorism), 11 (hate speech) and 20 (harming the reputation or privacy of a natural person) of the Prevention of Electronic Crime Act 2016, and sections 34 (acts done in furtherance of common intention), 109 (abetment) and 500 (defamation) of the Pakistan Penal Code.
A person can be imprisoned for up to 14 years or fined up to Rs50 million or both if convicted under Section 10(a). Section 11 is punishable by a jail term of seven years. Section 20 is punishable by a jail term of three and/or a fine of Rs1 million.
Jillani is the third journalist to be booked under PECA. PECA was passed in 2016. The law has 55 sections which deal with persecuting people on the basis of what they say or do online.