NYPD Probes Threats Against Pakistani Newspaper Editors

By: The trouble began last month, when someone trashed thousands of copies of free newspapers serving the city's Pakistani immigrants.

Then came the veiled threats against two editors: One says he was told that if he continued to report on allegations of community corruption, "Anything can happen to you." The other says he was warned, "We know where you live."

The New York Police Department has since assigned an Urdu-speaking officer to investigate the incidents ? a case that's also attracted the attention of the Committee to Protect Journalists, a group more attuned to monitoring threats against reporters working in overseas danger zones.

CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon sent a letter yesterday to Mayor Michael Bloomberg suggesting more must be done to make sure the Pakistan Post and the Urdu Times "are allowed to continue to report without fear of reprisal ... and without fear of being gathered up for destruction by organized groups intent on silencing the press."

Bloomberg spokesman Stu Loeser said the case was being taken seriously.

"The mayor believes strongly that no one has a right to prevent other people from making their viewpoints known," he said.

The newspapers were targeted in May after running a series of stories alleging corruption on a committee overseeing the annual Pakistan Independence Day parade, which is scheduled for the summer. Some articles blamed a Brooklyn imam, Hafiz Sabir, for the problems, said Urdu Times Editor Khalil Ur Rehman.

Witnesses reported seeing a group of men, including Sabir, drive around Brooklyn and Queens in a van and systematically remove thousands of copies of each newspaper from racks in restaurants and groceries, Rehman said. One large pile was later found dumped in a parking lot.

When the Urdu Times continued to print critical stories, Rehman claimed, an associate of the imam accosted him. He said the man warned, "You are wrong. ... He's a very influential person. Anything can happen to you."

Around the same time, the editor of the Pakistan Post, Mahammad Farooqi, was approached by two men.

"We know you," they said, according to Farooqi. "We know your family. You know what's going to happen to you."

Though the editor considered it a death threat, "I laughed, and they walked away," he said.

About five hours later, he said, the two men appeared outside his home on Long Island. He claimed they told him, "We know where you live ? just think about it."

Rehman said he has since stationed people outside Sabir's mosque to distribute his newspaper and "make the point I'm doing the right thing." Farooqi claimed that during a recent meeting with Sabir, the imam admitted making "a mistake" by being in the van when the newspapers were trashed.

People at Sabir's mosque said he wasn't there yesterday, and he did not respond to a telephone message left by the Associated Press on his cell phone in time for this article.


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