Pakistani court to oversee probe into death of journalist in Kenya

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Pakistan’s Supreme Court set up a panel of five judges on Tuesday to supervise an investigation into the death of a prominent journalist who was shot and killed in Kenya, the court said.

Journalist Arshad Sharif, 50, was killed on October 23 while travelling in a vehicle on the outskirts of the Kenyan capital of Nairobi. Kenyan police said it was a case of mistaken identity.

Sharif had earlier fled from Pakistan citing threats to his life after the government registered a treason case against him.

The Supreme Court said it had taken up the case voluntarily and was seeking responses from Pakistan’s foreign and interior ministries, the Federal Investigation Agency and Intelligence Bureau.

“The journalist community and the public at large are deeply distressed and concerned about the death of the senior journalist and are seeking the court’s scrutiny of the matter,” the court said in a statement.

The panel ordered the government to register a fresh case in Pakistan in relation to the killing, and submit by Wednesday the findings of an investigation team that had visited Kenya to gather facts and evidence last month, a court official said.

The registration of a new case means that a new criminal investigation will begin in Pakistan, which could lend weight to Pakistani efforts to learn more about the Kenyan investigation, Pakistani officials say.

The fresh case will also help Pakistani police to investigate any suspects in Pakistan if they think they had anything to do with the killing.

Sharif worked for many years as a prime-time television news show host for ARY News in Pakistan.

Kenyan police said Sharif was shot dead when police hunting car thieves opened fire on the vehicle he was travelling in as it drove through their roadblock late at night without stopping.

Police had formed a roadblock using small stones but the car in which Sharif was a passenger failed to stop, even after officers opened fire, police said in a report. Nine bullets hit the car and one hit Sharif in the head.

Despite the Kenyan police findings, Pakistan’s interior minister said there was evidence to suggest it was a targeted killing based on initial findings of a team of Pakistani investigators who visited Kenya last month.

Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said Sharif’s body had bruises and torture marks.

The treason case filed against Sharif stemmed from reporting he did that led to an accusation he had spread a call from an official in a previous government, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, for members of the armed forces to mutiny.

Both Sharif and the official in the previous government denied inciting mutiny.

Former prime minister Khan said Sharif had been murdered for his journalistic work. He and his successor PM Shehbaz Sharif, not related to the journalist Sharif, had called for a judicial investigation.

PM Sharif welcomed the court’s move. “The government will extend full support to the court,” he said in a statement.