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Pakistan-held French reporters back home

PARIS, Jan 14 (AFP) – Two French reporters who were allowed to leave Pakistan after being put on trial there for visa violations arrived home in Paris on Wednesday.

Marc Epstein and Jean-Paul Guilloteau, reporters for the weekly magazine L’Express, had been arrested on December 16 for violating their journalist’s visas by travelling to the south-western city of Quetta near the Afghan border.

Arriving at Paris’s Charles de Gaulle Airport on a flight from Karachi they said they were happy to be home, and had not been mistreated in Pakistan, but were worried about the fate of their Pakistani translator Khawar Mehdi Rizwi, who had been arrested with them.

After the pair were greeted by colleagues and family members, Epstein said: “What worries us today is the fate of our colleague and friend Khawar Mehdi Rizwi, of whom we have had no news for a month now. We don’t know where he is.”

He also thanked the French foreign ministry for acting to help the two return home. Last Saturday a Pakistani court had sentenced them to six month jail terms and fines, but a higher court later allowed them to leave the country, although it did not overturn the sentences.

The pair had said they had gone to Quetta to investigate the possible presence of fighters loyal to the Islamic Taliban regime, which ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden until its ouster by US-led forces in late 2001.

Before leaving Karachi, Epstein said: “We are not sure that we will return again although Pakistan is a wonderful place for reporting. People are wonderful.”

A Pakistani court is due to hold a hearing on the case of Khawar Mehdi Rizwi, who has been held at an undisclosed location since being detained on December 16, next Tuesday.


                                Subject: France news