RFE/RL – Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (Author)
A Pakistani journalist who went missing two months ago in Sweden has been found dead in a river, Swedish police said.
Sajid Hussain's body was found on April 23 in the Fyris River outside Uppsala, Jonas Eronen, a police spokesman, said, according to The Guardian newspaper.
Hussain, the editor of the Balochistan Times news website, had been missing since early March.
Eronen said a crime could not be completely ruled out but added that Hussain’s death could equally have been an accident or suicide.
An autopsy has been conducted and it “dispelled some of the suspicion that he was the victim of a crime,” the police spokesman added.
Hussain’s wife, Shahnaz Baloch, was quoted by The Guardian as saying Hussain was in good spirits when she spoke with him by phone on the day he went missing, and they discussed his plans to move into a new apartment in Uppsala.
Hussain, 39, fled Pakistan in 2012 after receiving threats related to his reporting and lived in exile in several countries before seeking asylum in Sweden in 2017.
In addition to writing about human rights violations in the southwestern Pakistani region, he reported on organized crime and forced disappearances, and exposed a drug kingpin in Pakistan.
He was last seen boarding a train in Stockholm on March 2 to go to Uppsala, 70 kilometers north of the Swedish capital.
Local police had said Hussain did get off the train in Uppsala 45 minutes after it left Stockholm.
An official with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Hussain’s controversial profile meant it could not be ruled out that he had been abducted and killed “at the behest of a Pakistani intelligence agency.”
Erik Halkjaer, the president of RSF’s Swedish section, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that as long as a crime cannot be ruled out, “there remains the risk that his death is linked to his work as a journalist.”
RSF said in late March that it believed Hussain was abducted on the orders of an intelligence agency in Pakistan. It pointed out that Hussain continued working as editor of the Balochistan Times from abroad.
The Balochistan Times “often crossed the ‘red lines’ imposed by the military establishment in Islamabad,” according to the Paris-based media freedom watchdog.
Balochistan has been plagued by sectarian violence, Islamist militant attacks, and a separatist insurgency since 2004.
Pakistan's successive governments and the powerful military have been accused for years of censoring the media.
The country is ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in RSF's 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
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