ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — An American citizen previously deported from Pakistan on charges of espionage was arrested Saturday in the Pakistani capital for illegally reentering the country, officials said.
Officials with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency said Matthew Barrett was seized at a guesthouse in the capital and taken into custody, hours after immigration officials at the international airport in nearby Rawalpindi were found to have mistakenly granted him entry.
Barrett was deported from Pakistan in 2011 and barred from returning after being found in the area of a “sensitive installation,” the Interior Ministry said in a statement. He was charged with spying on Pakistan’s nuclear facilities, the ministry said. The government has a large nuclear arsenal and development program, which has been a source of U.S. sanctions and bilateral tension.
There has been no comment from U.S. officials, and no further information about Barrett was immediately known except that he obtained his visa at the Pakistani consulate in Houston. Officials said he used false documents to enter the country, but it was not known whether he was traveling under his real name. He has been charged with violating immigration laws.
The incident immediately recalled the case of Raymond Davis, a CIA civilian contractor who was arrested in Pakistan, also in 2011, after fatally shooting two men on the streets of Lahore. Pakistani officials said he had been surveilling and photographing government facilities there. The men had been following him on a motorbike and approached his car with guns drawn.
Davis was charged with murder and scheduled for trial, but he was instead allowed to leave the country in a deal with judiciary officials that inflamed anti-U.S. sentiment across Pakistan and threatened to derail the close but politically fraught relationship between U.S. and Pakistani intelligence agencies.
The CIA contractor’s activities exposed what has been called a secret U.S. war inside Pakistan to spy on Islamist militant groups, some of which have close ties to Pakistan’s intelligence agencies. Davis was said to be among a large covert army of spies operating across Pakistan.
Pakistani officials said several immigration officials at the airport in Rawalpindi and one at the consulate in Houston are under investigation for allowing Barrett to enter the country despite being blacklisted. One senior airport officer has been suspended.
Constable reported from Kabul.