News

January 11, 2022

“Historic trial” in London of man accused of plotting to kill exiled Pakistani blogger

The trial of a man accused of plotting to murder Ahmad Waqass Goraya (left) is due to open before the Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court in southwest London on 12 January (photo: AWG - justice.gov.uk).
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) will closely follow the trial of a man accused of conspiring to kill a Pakistani blogger based in the Netherlands, which is due to start in the London suburb of Kingston-upon-Thames on 12 January, and calls on the British justice system to shed all possible light on all of the conspiracy’s ramifications.

In this trial, which could set an international precedent in the fight against impunity for crimes of violence against journalists living in exile, Muhammad Gohir Khan, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, is charged with “conspiring together with persons unknown” to murder Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani journalist and blogger resident in the Netherlands.

 

Goraya has been in hiding ever since the Dutch police warned him on 12 February 2021 of a serious threat to his life –  a warning that came after Goraya had himself already told RSF that he was in danger. Khan is accused of taking a train from London to Amsterdam at that time, and renting a car in order to spy on Goraya’s home in Rotterdam, allegedly  with the intent of murdering him.

 

After Scotland Yard finally arrested Khan in June 2021, he appeared before London’s  Central Criminal Court - known as the Old Bailey - on 19 July 2021 for a preliminary hearing. His trial before the Kingston-upon-Thames rown Court in southwest London, which is expected to take two weeks, will be closely followed by RSF’s representatives in London.

 

Historic implications


“Muhammad Gohir Khan’s trial clearly has historic implications,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “After exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s shocking murder by his country’s intelligence services, this is the first time it seems possible that the accused instigator of a plot to murder an exiled journalist could be held to account by a court of law.”

 

Bastard added: “We therefore urge the court to work to identify all of the individuals who could have been involved in this murder attempt, and we hope that this trial will set an example and help to shed light on actions taken by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies with the aim of silencing dissident journalists.”

 

When Goraya was assaulted by two men outside his Rotterdam home on 2 February 2020, he told RSF that the attack “fits the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies.”

 

He also blamed a “government institution linked to the army” for his abduction – and the abduction of four other bloggers – in January 2017 when he was visiting Pakistan. While held, he was tortured for several weeks in an attempt to persuade him to stop blogging.

 

Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

 

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Note: RSF’s London bureau representatives will be following this trial, and will share updates  on Twitter via  @rsf_inter and @rebecca_vincent. For queries about this coverage, contact Rebecca Vincent: [email protected].