Anchor Imran Riaz’s pre-arrest bail confirmed

LAHORE: A district and sessions court in Lahore confirmed on Tuesday the pre-arrest bail of senior journalist Imran Riaz Khan, as the Investigation Officer (IO) failed to produce any substantial evidence to support the case registered against him.

The Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Cybercrime Wing had filed an FIR against Imran Riaz Khan for allegedly defaming and maligning the police department, its officers, including Inspector General of Police (IGP) Punjab, and other national institutions. The accusations were based on tweets from his Twitter account, where he was alleged to be making derogatory remarks and spreading false information. The FIR claimed that Imran Riaz Khan, along with other accused persons, was involved in mocking state institutions through fake and distorted posts, potentially harming societal morale, solidarity, and the country’s integrity.

During the proceedings, Imran Riaz Khan’s counsel, advocate Mian Ali Ashfaq, argued that the complainant, under section 44 of the Cr.P.C, lacked the standing to file the complaint. He emphasised that only the aggrieved person, potentially the IG Punjab in this case, could have filed the complaint. Furthermore, he raised concerns about the lack of evidence, pointing out that the crucial video clip relied upon by the FIA had never been collected.

Ashfaq highlighted that the video allegedly uploaded by Ayesha Ali Bhutta and subsequently quote-tweeted by Imran Riaz Khan was never seized by the FIA. The complainant failed to produce the alleged video, which was no longer available on Twitter, making it challenging to establish any offense. He stressed that the FIA’s records showed no recorded statements from the aggrieved person or the IGP under section 161 of Cr.P.C.

Ashfaq argued that even when assessing the content of Imran Riaz Khan’s tweet, no offense could be discerned, as it was a mere reproduction of the IGP’s own statement in the alleged video. He noted the absence of technical reports and transcripts of the alleged video in FIA’s records.

Upon inquiry by the additional district & sessions judge Muhammad Nawaz Bhatti, the IO stated that the investigation against Imran Riaz Khan had been completed, but failed to provide concrete evidence against him. The judge questioned the basis of the case, and the IO mentioned objectionable tweets against police officers and retweets from Imran Riaz Khan’s account.

When asked about the timing of the FIR, Imran Riaz Khan’s counsel clarified that he was in an ‘abduction’ at that time, raising questions about the validity of the FIR. The judge inquired about the deletion of the tweet that led to the FIR, and the IO confirmed its deletion before the FIR was lodged.

Despite the court’s queries, the IO could not present any evidence against Imran Riaz Khan. In response, the petitioner’s counsel argued that his client was falsely implicated in a forged case to humiliate and embarrass him.

The judge reserved the decision and later confirmed the pre-arrest bail for Imran Riaz Khan.

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