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Pakistani police release journalist accused of defaming army

KARACHI, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistani police released a local journalist accused of defaming the military on Saturday as a court reprimanded the police for overstepping their mandate, a lawyer for journalist Bilal Farooqi said.

Farooqi, a vocal critic of both the military and the government, was arrested on charges of defaming the country’s army and spreading religious hatred on Friday.

Farooqi’s arrest and subsequent release is the latest in a spate of moves against journalists who have been critical of the government. It comes just days after Prime Minister Imran Khan reiterated that Pakistan has a free media.

“The court asked the police if a FIR (first information report) does not stand ground, who has given you authority to pick up people from home,” Ghulam Shabbir, Farooqi’s lawyer told Reuters.

Shabbir said he expected the police report to be submitted within a week and for the case to be discharged.

“The charges against me are so absurd, that I am spreading religious hatred and defaming institutions, these are all bogus charges,” Farooqi told Reuters before his court appearance.

Reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Editing by Christina Fincher

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