Govt to pay for Nayyar Zaidi’s defence

Khalid Hasan

WASHINGTON: The Government of Pakistan has agreed to pay for the defence of veteran Pakistani journalist Nayyar Zaidi who is awaiting trial in an Ohio jail after being arrested in March this year on what he has all along maintained is a “trumped up charge” of moral misdemeanour.

The financial sanction from Islamabad comes in response to efforts by Pakistani Ambassador Husain Haqqani. Zaidi will now be able to have himself defended by a competent instead of a court-appointed lawyer.

Zaidi believes that it is the FBI which has targeted him because of his past interaction with the federal investigation agency. Zaidi maintains that he had gone to Ohio where he was arrested to pursue an “obstruction of justice” story he was working on, involving individuals from all over the world who are said to be detained in that state. He says he has been a target of the FBI since 1995 when he worked for Pakistan Television. He was approached and asked to work for an official agency but he declined.

In 2003, he was visited by the FBI, which alleged that phone calls had been made from his residential phone to certain numbers that were under surveillance for terrorism-related reasons. These numbers were said to be located in China, Pakistan and Thailand, among other countries.

Zaidi denied that any such calls had been made by him or anyone else from his home phone. One number that he was provided turned out to be that of a defunct textile business in Karachi.

Now that Zaidi will be able to have a proper lawyer representing him in court, his chances of receiving a fair trial are enhanced.

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