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UK: British citizen found guilty of conspiring to kill exiled Pakistani blogger

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UK: British citizen found guilty of conspiring to kill exiled Pakistani blogger
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) welcomes the jury decision finding a British citizen guilty of conspiring to kill exiled Pakistani blogger Ahmad Waqass Goraya. The jury’s guilty verdict could serve as a landmark judgement in establishing accountability for transnational threats against journalists, which are far too often perpetuated with impunity.

Following a two-week trial at the Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, including a two-day jury deliberation, on 28 January, Muhammad Gohir Khan, a British citizen of Pakistani origin, was found guilty of conspiring to murder Ahmad Waqass Goraya, a Pakistani blogger living in exile in the Netherlands. Khan had pled “not guilty” to conspiracy to murder following his arrest in June 2021, claiming that he had never intended to kill Goraya. Khan faces possible life imprisonment, and will return to court on 11 March for a sentencing hearing.

 

“We welcome the jury decision in this case, which is a rare step towards establishing criminal accountability for transnational crimes against journalists. Far too often exiled journalists are forced to live in fear in the face of continued threats from the countries they escaped. We are extremely relieved for Ahmad Waqass Goraya and his family that this plot was foiled, that they are safe, and that his would-be killer will be imprisoned. It is well past time to end impunity for such atrocious threats,” said RSF’s Director of International Campaigns and UK Bureau Director Rebecca Vincent, who monitored part of the proceedings.

 

RSF representatives monitored the two-week trial both in-person and remotely. The defendant, who had been hired as a “hitman” by a middleman referred to as “MudZ,” who appeared to be based in Pakistan, refuted claims that he had intended to kill Goraya. The defence argued that Khan had only planned to extract money from MudZ while maintaining the appearance that he would carry out the killing. Khan created multiple false identities to give the appearance of a larger team, allowing him to bill £5,000 for operational expenses, which he received in advance. A total fee of £100,000 was agreed for the job, with Khan to receive £80,000 and £20,000 to go to MudZ after Goraya was killed. They also discussed the possibility of future jobs contingent on the successful completion of this one.

 

The prosecution, led by Alison Morgan QC, argued that Khan – whom she referred to as a “habitual liar” – had been intent on killing Goraya. Khan travelled to Rotterdam in June 2021, where Goraya was living at the time, and is recorded on CCTV purchasing a knife and surveying Goraya’s street and the exterior of his home. Evidence from Khan’s phone, which was presented to the court, included videos of Goraya’s street and extensive messages exchanged between Khan and “MudZ,” where fishing terminology was used as a code for the murder plot. Khan was arrested in June 2021 upon his return to the UK from Rotterdam.

 

As a vocal critic of the Pakistani regime, RSF has previously raised concerns regarding Goraya’s safety. In 2017 he was abducted and tortured when visiting Pakistan, and assulted in 2020 outside his home in Rotterdam. In 2018, Goraya was informed by the FBI that he was featured on various “kill lists,” and has faced extensive threats, both in-person and online. He had previously told RSF that the attacks “fit the modus operandi of Pakistani spy agencies.”

 

The UK and Pakistan are respectively ranked 33rd and 145th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Source – https://rsf.org/en/news/uk-british-citizen-found-guilty-conspiring-kill-exiled-pakistani-blogger

Image Credit – AWG – justice.gov.uk

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