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Pakistani Media Tycoon Granted Bail After Months In Custody

Police officers and media persons gather around Mir Shakil-ur-Rehman, outside a court in the eastern city of Lahore in March. (file photo)

The Pakistani Supreme Court has granted bail to the owner and editor-in-chief of the country's largest independent media group, eight months after his arrest in a case dating back more than 30 years.

Mir Shakilur Rehman of the Jang Group was released on November 9 on a 10 million rupee ($63,000) bail order.

A court in Lahore had previously rejected Rehman’s bail request in July.

The media mogul, whose group of newspapers and television stations has been critical of the government, was arrested in March by the anti-graft National Accountability Bureau (NAB).

He is accused of evading taxes related to a 1986 deal to purchase a property in the city of Lahore.

“After detention of 8 months NAB failed to prove any illegality against him thanks to all journalist colleagues who stood by us,” Hamid Mir, a prominent television anchor who works for Jang Group, wrote in a tweet.

Pakistani media watchdog Freedom Network also welcomed Rahman’s release, calling the charges against him “baseless."

Media freedom watchdogs in Pakistan and abroad had expressed concerns over Rahman's detention, saying it was part of a larger crackdown on those critical of the government and the military.

Pakistani media and journalists have faced threats and harassment since the government of Prime Minister Imran Khan took office in 2018 following elections tainted by allegations of manipulation by the military. Khan has rejected the accusations.