Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN)A court in Pakistan has issued an arrest warrant for a prominent journalist over an article he wrote in May, stoking concerns about diminishing press freedoms following a military-led crackdown on the media during elections earlier this year.
Pakistan court issues arrest warrant for journalist amid press crackdown
Cyril Almeida, an editor and columnist at one of Pakistan's most respected English-language dailies, is accused of treason for a story filed in May 11, 2018, in which former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted speaking out against Pakistan's handling of the 2008 Mumbai Terror Attack in India.
In a statement Monday the Lahore High Court said Almeida had been summoned three times to appear before the bench but had failed to make an appearance. As a result, it was "left with no option" other than to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant.
The court also ordered Almeida's name to be placed on Pakistan's Exit Control List (ECL), preventing him from leaving the country.
In Almeida's May interview with Sharif, the former prime minister appeared to reinforce the claim that Pakistan was behind the 2008 Mumbai Attack due to the use of non-state actors, a claim made constantly by India but one which Pakistan's military and government has vehemently denied.
More than 160 people were killed in the November 2008 attack on the Indian financial capital when 10 gunmen laid siege to several buildings including the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower and Oberoi-Trident hotels, the city's historic Victoria Terminus train station, and the Jewish cultural center, Chabad House.
The quote by Sharif that led to the case being filed, stated that "militant organizations are active in the country (Pakistan). Call them non-state actors, should we allow them to cross the borders and kill 150 people in Mumbai?"
The Lahore High Court also summoned Sharif and former Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, for discussing with Sharif details of a National Security Council meeting held regarding the implications of the interview. Both have been summoned on charges of treason relating to the article.
Almeida's newspaper Dawn stands by the story, and the accuracy of the quote. An editor's note on the newspaper's website Monday questioned the timing of the summons. "The notice served on Cyril Almeida was delivered at Dawn's Islamabad bureau in the middle of last week, and journalists and officials at the bureau say the earlier two notices were never delivered."
Almeida was previously placed on the ECL in 2016 for reporting on fraught civil military relations in Pakistan at the height of a dispute with India over militancy in the disputed region of Kashmir.