A man has gone on trial in London, accused of plotting to kill a Pakistani blogger living in the Netherlands.
A court heard that 31-year-old Muhammad Gohir Khan was hired as a “hitman” by figures said to be based in Pakistan.
He was arrested last June and pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to murder.
Lawyers said the intended victim, Ahmad Waqass Goraya, had set up a blog on Facebook making fun of the Pakistani military and detailing alleged human rights violations.
Kingston Crown Court heard that Mr Goraya, who was living in Rotterdam at the time, “was known for speaking out against the activities of the Pakistani government and appears to have been targeted for that reason”.
The jury was told that Mr Khan, a supermarket worker from East London, was heavily in debt – with the prosecution alleging he reacted “enthusiastically” to a proposal by a man named only as “MudZ” to kill the Pakistani political activist in exchange for £100,000.
Leading the prosecution, Alison Morgan QC, said in December 2018 Mr Goraya had received information from the FBI that he was on a “kill list” and that he had received threats online and in person, some of which he believed “were being orchestrated by ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence)”, Pakistan’s intelligence agency.
The court was shown alleged Whatsapp messages between the defendant Mr Khan and a middle-man named as “MudZ” appearing to discuss the murder allegedly using a code referencing fishing, with the target on one occasion described as “a little fish” as opposed to a “shark” and that a “little knife… hook” would suffice for the job.
Another figure mentioned in the messages in relation to the alleged plot was referred to as “Big Boss”.
The prosecution said the defendant had been sent Mr Goraya’s home address and photograph, and had travelled to Rotterdam where he purchased a knife, but that he had been unable to locate Mr Goraya and so returned to the UK where he was arrested.
Prosecuting lawyer, Ms Morgan QC, told the court Mr Khan accepts sending and receiving all the messages in question and travelling to Rotterdam, but maintains he intended to keep the money and not carry out the murder.
The prosecution alleges he did intend on killing Mr Goraya.
The trial is set to last around two weeks.