Trial of Brit-Pakistani man over plot to kill exiled blogger

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A British citizen of Pakistani origin went on trial on Thursday in London, for conspiring to murder an exiled Pakistani journalist Ahmed Waqass Goraya.

The 31-year-old hitman named Muhammed Gohir Khan’s trial was held in a court in Kingston Upon Thames, southwest London. The accused was arrested in June last year by Scotland Yard and he was charged with “conspiring together with persons unknown” to murder Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani journalist and blogger, residing in the Netherlands.

Gohir Khan appeared before London’s  Central Criminal Court in July 2021, where he pleaded not guilty.

In the trial on Thursday, Prosecutor Alison Morgan said that the hitman Gohir Khan travelled from east London to Rotterdam, where Goraya lives, buying a knife and attempting to locate the blogger after being offered £100,000 to carry out the hit.

Prosecutor Morgan said Mr Goraya believes the threats that he received were led and orchestrated by ISI, referring to Pakistani intelligence agency. Goraya’s social media postings went “so far on occasions as to call Pakistan a terrorist state”, she added.

The court was told that Gohir Khan accepted that he travelled to the Netherlands and he also maintained that he wanted the money but never intended to go through with the killing.

The evidence including security camera footage and transcripts of messages on the messaging app Signal, were presented to the jury. Prosecution told the court that the crime did not take place due to a miscalculation. Khan didn’t know that Mr Goraya was not at his home address in Rotterdam at that time, and after a few days of fruitless attempts to locate Mr Goraya, Khan gave up, Morgan said.

The case was adjourned until Friday.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is monitoring the case said that Mr Goraya was not present at the hearing. On Tuesday RSF said in a statement that it will closely follow the trial and “calls on the British justice system to shed all possible light on all of the conspiracy’s ramifications.”

Calling this trial “historic”, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk, Daniel Bastard said this trial clearly has historic implications, “after exiled Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s shocking murder by his country’s intelligence services, this is the first time it seems possible that the accused instigator of a plot to murder an exiled journalist could be held to account by a court of law.”

He further stated: “We hope that this trial will set an example and help to shed light on actions taken by Pakistan’s intelligence agencies with the aim of silencing dissident journalists.”

Pakistan is ranked 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Related: Exiled Pakistani blogger’s family threatened by secret services

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