Washington, July 28 : A US-based Pakistani journalist is reportedly in police custody for the past four months on terrorism charges. He is believed to be kept in an Ohio prison.
Nayyar Zaidi, the well-known US-based Pakistani-American journalist, has been a citizen of the US for more than 30 years.
He is being held on the charge of "obstruction of justice", a very serious offence. He is also said to be awaiting a trial. The news of his arrest was broken by the New Jersey-based website at the weekend.
According to the Daily Times, on Feb. 20, 2003, Zaidi was visited by three FBI agents at his residence in Prince County, Virginia, while he was away from home. The three agents tried to interrogate Zaidi's 15-year old son Zain Zaidi, who immediately phoned his father but by the time he got home, the agents were gone, leaving a phone number that they said he should reach them at.
The FBI claimed that Zaidi's home phone had been used for making calls to 10 numbers in Pakistan, China, India, the Netherlands and Thailand, and those numbers were under investigation for links to the events of 9/11 2001. Zaidi contended that the Pakistan number bore similarity to a fax number that he often called in Karachi to file his news and other reports.
Zaidi has been working for the Jang Group of Newspapers for more than 25 years. The Pakistan phone number was officially investigated by Pakistani authorities, which found it to be the disconnected number of a textile company that had gone bankrupt.
When Zaidi asked to be given other numbers that had allegedly been called from his phone, the request was refused. Zaidi offered to cooperate with the FBI but refused to hand over his phone notebook or any records unless the agents came up with legal grounds to make such a demand. He was left alone until August 8, 2003 when two different FBI agents came to his home while he was away. When he called them on August 11, leaving three messages, his calls were not returned.
The embassy also took up the issue of this FBI intrusion with the State Department, which promised to look into the matter. Nothing more was heard of it till Zaidi's mysterious disappearance in late March this year.