Four-week prison ordeal over for Bassey

Bassey: accused of spying

The British High Commission in Islamabad arranged a plane ticket from Peshawar to Dubai to get Sunday Mercury investigations editor Amardeep Bassey straight out of Pakistan following his release from jail.

He was let go without charge after 28 days in captivity on Thursday. From his cell in the political agents’ jail he went straight into the custody of the Pakistani Special Branch until the Mercury could arrange a flight out for him. The first direct flight for which it had reserved a ticket from Islamabad was for Saturday. Flights for the UK were filling quickly after the Foreign Office advised all British nationals to leave India and Pakistan as tension escalated between the two countries over Kashmir.

The Mercury was immediately in touch with the High Commission to try to secure an earlier passage. Then the paper’s owner, Trinity Mirror, arranged the flight from Dubai to get Bassey home for the weekend.

Mercury editor David Brookes said: "We are all thrilled. It was a bit touch and go. At one time, he was going to be taken to Islamabad and locked up for another couple of days."

He spoke briefly to Bassey by phone and said that he sounded "in remarkably good spirits".

Brookes was on holiday but had cancelled all his trips in order to be on hand for Bassey’s return. Brookes heard at 8.30am on Thursday of his release and that all the deportation papers had been signed.

Bassey has been held in three prisons since he was arrested on 10 May in the Khyber Pass and has faced hours of interrogation after it was alleged he had been spying. He comes from an Indian family although he was born in the UK.

Deputy editor Paul Cole said: "We have always said the spying charges were ludicrous and we are glad they have seen sense."

Bassey, 29, was with Human Rights Commission members travelling from Kabul to Peshawar when he was arrested for failing to have an appropriate exit stamp on his visa. He had originally gone to the Afghan capital with a Foreign Office media delegation to report on the efforts of the British peacekeeping force.

After his arrest, he was first kept in Landi Kotal jail, in a cell with 55 other people, before being moved to a prison in Peshawar and then to the political agents’ jail while his case was reviewed by a judge.

 

Jean Morgan

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