French-Afghan journalist Mortaza Behboudi, released after spending 284 days imprisoned by the Taliban regime, said on Monday that the pressure built by the media saved his life.
“Without the media, I would not be alive,” Behboudi said at a press conference at the headquarters of Reporters Without Borders (RSF), which actively worked for his release.
Behboudi was arrested on Jan.7 while trying to report on female students taking exams at Kabul university. He was released on Oct.18 and repatriated to France.
Flanked by his wife, Aleksandra Mostovaja, and RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire, Behboudi said the Taliban regime accused him of a French spy and bringing aid to the Afghan resistance against the Islamists.
Although he had all his documents in order, including an Afghan press card, he spent a month in a police station, the journalist said.
He was then taken to Kabul central prison, where another 1,200 political detainees were held.
He was completely isolated from the outside world in an overcrowded cell. “I didn’t think I was going to come out alive,” he said.
Behboudi, who held back tears on several occasions during the press conference, avoided going into details about his experiences to avoid harming other detainees.
He did, however, mention that he was repeatedly interrogated and tortured and witnessed the torture of other prisoners.
After more than six months, a Taliban delegation went to see after he repeatedly pleaded innocence.
Subsequently, he was transferred to another prison for common criminals, where he had access to a lawyer and a telephone.
After five court hearings, he was finally found innocent, although he had to sign a document agreeing to submit his future articles to the Taliban for approval before publication.
Following his release, he arrived in Paris on Friday morning and was transferred to a military hospital for a medical check-up.
“The mobilization for Mortaza Behboudi’s release has been extraordinary,” the RSF general-secretary said
He said the editorial staff of 15 media outlets worked for his release, also creating a support committee.
Deloire pointed out that, although it is sometimes believed that such mobilizations are ineffective, in this case, “it has sent an extraordinarily important message to the Taliban.”
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga