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Taliban free long-imprisoned French-Afghan journalist

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KABUL – A Taliban court has ordered the release of French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi, who had been detained for a staggering 284 days, according to Reporters Without Borders.

Behboudi, 29, originally hailing from Afghanistan but a refugee in France since 2015, was released from Pul-e-Charkhi prison in Kabul following a criminal court hearing. During this hearing, all charges against him, including allegations of espionage and illegal support for foreigners, were nullified, according to the statement.

The journalist had returned to Afghanistan on January 5 for a reporting assignment but was apprehended a mere two days later while awaiting press accreditation. He was initially held at the PD3 (Police District 3) police station in Kabul and subsequently transferred to the custody of the Taliban intelligence service, the General Directorate of Intelligence (GDI), on January 19, where he faced espionage allegations, as reported by RSF. Fortunately, RSF managed to designate two Afghan attorneys to advocate for him and obtain access to his case dossier.

Behboudi is not only a journalist but also a recipient of the prestigious Bayeux Prize for War Correspondents, recognizing his exceptional reporting on life in Afghanistan under the Taliban regime.

The release of Behboudi has garnered international support and relief. UN Special Rapporteur Richard Bennett, Amnesty International, and the Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) have all welcomed this development. Aleksandra Mostovaja, the spouse of Behboudi, expressed her relief on social media, stating, “With Mortaza’s release, light has returned to my world, and our lives can now resume.”

It is important to note that since the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan in 2021, there has been a noticeable increase in the curtailment of journalistic activities, with numerous instances of journalists being arrested and incarcerated. The release of Mortaza Behboudi is seen as a positive step in a challenging environment for journalists in the region.

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