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Exiled Pakistani journalist Sajid Hussain found dead in Sweden

Exiled Pakistani journalist Sajid Hussain found dead in Sweden

A Pakistani journalist living in exile in Sweden and who had been missing since March has been found dead in a river.

Sajid Hussain, who was granted political asylum in Sweden in 2019 after fleeing Pakistan, had been missing since 2 March. He was last seen boarding a train to Uppsala, a city 35 miles (56km) north of Stockholm.

“His body was found on 23 April in the Fyris river outside Uppsala,” Jonas Eronen, a police spokesman, said.

Hussain had been living with a friend, Abdul Malik, in Stockholm when he went missing. Malik said Hussain had been in a good mood before leaving for Uppsala on 2 March. His wife, Shahnaz Baloch, said she had spoken to Hussain over the phone that morning and he had been in good spirits, discussing his plans to move to a new apartment in Uppsala.

“We just want police to investigate the cause of death and give an answer to his family and friends,” said Malik. “We want to know what happened.”

Hussain fled Pakistan in 2012 after his reporting on forced disappearances and human rights violations in the Balochistan region had resulted in the police raiding his house and interrogating his family. He also received death threats.

Eronen said a crime could not be completely ruled out, but that Hussain’s death could equally have been an accident or suicide.

“The autopsy has dispelled some of the suspicion that he was the victim of a crime,” he said.

“As long as a crime cannot be excluded, there remains the risk that his death is linked to his work as a journalist,” said Erik Halkjaer, the head of the Swedish branch of Reporters without Borders (RSF).

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”. The country’s foreign ministry declined to comment.

Hussain had continued his journalism as chief editor of the Baluchistan Times, an online magazine he founded, from abroad. He wrote about drug trafficking, forced disappearances and a long-running insurgency.

He had arrived in Sweden in 2018, after previously moving from the United Arab Emirates to Oman and Uganda. According to his family and friends, he was in the process of bringing his wife and two children to join him in Sweden, and had been due to start a post-graduate degree at the University of Uppsala.

Pakistan is considered one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, who are regularly harassed and killed. According to the 2019 RSF press freedom index, Pakistan ranked 142 out of 180 countries.

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