A British citizen of Pakistani origin accused of conspiring to murder a Pakistani blogger living in self-imposed exile has appeared at a London court for a preliminary hearing in the case.
The Old Bailey court said on July 19 that Muhammad Gohir Khan is facing charges of “conspiring with persons unknown” to murder Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani blogger who has lived in the Netherlands since 2017.
The 31-year-old Khan, who lives in east London, was arrested by British police last month and is being held pending a trial scheduled for January 2022.
Goraya, who has criticized religious extremism and the Pakistani military establishment, has been in hiding ever since the Dutch police warned him in February of serious threats to his life.
It has emerged that Khan took a train from Britain's capital to Amsterdam that month and rented a car in order to check out where the blogger lived in Rotterdam.
In a statement, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) called on the British and Dutch police to do “everything possible” to identify Khan’s accomplices and instigators, and “summon Pakistani diplomatic representatives in Europe for questioning” if necessary.
When Goraya was still living in Pakistan, he was kidnapped for several weeks in early 2017, with the blogger blaming the abduction on a “government institution linked to the army.”
Goraya was also assaulted by two men in Rotterdam in February 2020, an attack he said "fits the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies.”
RSF noted that another Pakistani journalist, Balochistan Times editor Sajid Hussain, disappeared in March 2020 in Sweden, where he had been given political asylum.
His body was retrieved from a river in April, and Swedish prosecutors ruled out murder despite what the Paris-based media freedom watchdog called “several circumstances indicating that he was murdered.”
Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2021 World Press Freedom Index.