DNA testing has confirmed that the body is Hussain’s, the police said on 1 May. It was retrieved on 23 April from the main river in Uppsala, where he was last seen on 2 March after travelling there by train from Stockholm, 70 km to the south. Sajid Hussain lived in Sweden, where he was a political refugee and edited the Balochistan Times news website.
Agence-France Presse quoted police spokesman Jonas Eronen as saying an initial autopsy had “dispelled some of the suspicion that he was the victim of a crime.” The police have nonetheless not yet completely ruled out the possibility that Hussain was murdered.
And they have good reason not to. According to his wife, his brother and two of his colleagues, to whom RSF has spoken, Hussain showed absolutely no sign of being suicidal. And the police have found no concrete evidence to support the hypothesis that he suffered an accident.
“As long as murder cannot be excluded, there is a strong possibility that he was killed in connection with his work as a journalist,” said Erik Halkjaer, the head of RSF’s Swedish section. “We call on the special prosecutor Ulrika Lindsö, in charge of the case, not to rule out any hypothesis about the cause of this journalist’s death.”
Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk added: “In his work as a journalist, Sajid Hussain made a name for himself by covering drug trafficking, human rights violations, enforced disappearances and insurrectionary activity in Balochistan, the Pakistani province where he was from. These are all sensitive subjects for which he could have been the victim of a reprisal. It was because of his reporting that he fled Pakistan eight years ago.”
The concern about the possible cause of Hussain’s death is reinforced by the fact that exactly one month before his disappearance, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani blogger living in self-imposed exile in the Netherlands, was attacked and threatened outside his Rotterdam home by two individuals speaking Urdu. “This attack fits the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies,” he told RSF.
According to confidential information obtained by RSF, a list of Pakistani dissidents who are now refugees in other countries is currently circulating within Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the most powerful of Pakistan’s intelligence agencies.
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index, three places lower than in 2019. Sweden is ranked 4th.