Court Grants Journalist Asad Toor Bail, Orders Release

Toor spent 19 days in custody in a case that accused him of running a smear campaign against the judiciary

Court Grants Journalist Asad Toor Bail, Orders Release

A trial court in Islamabad on Saturday approved bail for journalist and YouTuber Asad Ali Toor in a case of operating a malicious campaign to malign and smear judges of the superior judiciary.

The bail, though, was primarily granted based on the Supreme Court's earlier observations that journalists should not be booked for a social media campaign.

The motion was approved during Saturday's case hearing by Special Judge Central Humayun Dilawar. Judge Dilawar, who was an additional district and sessions judge, had sentenced former prime minister and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) founder Imran Khan to jail in the Toshakhana reference, paving the way for his arrest and imprisonment in August 2023.

During the hearing, Toor was represented by his lawyers, Imaan Mazari-Hazir and Hadi Ali Chatha. The investigation officer in the case and FIA Prosecutor Ashfaq Hussain Shah were also present in the court.

As the hearing commenced, Chatha submitted the observations of the Supreme Court in the case.

Judge Dilawar asked the investigation officer and FIA's prosecutor whether the top court's observations and contents were accurate. The prosecutor confirmed the observations.

Subsequently, the court approved Toor's bail and set the surety at Rs5,000. The court also ordered Toor's release, subject to the security being furnished.

Earlier, the Islamabad High Court ordered Toor's bail hearing to be expedited. The hearing had been delayed due to the investigation officer falling ill.

Toor was arrested by the FIA on February 26 on charges of running an explicit and malicious campaign against judges of the top court following his criticism of certain decisions made by the court.

The journalist had been issued summons by the FIA. After obtaining an order from the IHC directing the FIA not to harass him, Toor complied with the summons and went to the FIA's office. After being questioned for over five hours, his lawyers were informed that he had been booked and arrested.

The FIA proceeded to obtain physical custody of Toor for ten days as they probed his sources of information. He spent a further nine days in judicial custody as the FIA continued its investigation.

Toor's name was at the top of a list of 46 journalists, television anchors, YouTubers, lawyers and activists who the FIA had identified during investigations as a joint investigation team, formed in January at the request of the Supreme Court, to trace those running concerted campaigns against judges.

The journalist's arrest had drawn a strong rebuke from the Community to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a global body of journalists which tracks attacks on journalism and journalists, including incarceration to intimidate free press.

"The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Toor and to cease harassing him for his journalistic work. Toor was arrested in the capital, Islamabad, at the FIA's cybercrime wing," the committee said in a statement.

"We are appalled by the arrest of Pakistani journalist Asad Ali Toor in apparent violation of an order by the Islamabad High Court," said CPJ Program Director Carlos Martinez de la Serna. "Pakistani authorities must immediately and unconditionally release Toor and ensure that journalists do not face retaliation for their critical reporting on institutions, including the judiciary."