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India 12 December 2006

Call for explanations about journalist arrested in Kashmir

Reporters Without Borders has urged the Indian authorities, particularly Home minister Shivraj Patil, to provide clear and objective information about the detention of Abdul Rouf, a journalist on the Srinagar News, and his wife Zeenat Rouf.

"The rule of law should be guaranteed in Kashmir as elsewhere in India. It is unacceptable that the security forces arrest, detain and charge journalists in the most dubious circumstances,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.

“We want explanations about the detention of Abdul Rouf and his wife from both the State and Union authorities. If this arrest is linked to his work as a journalist, he should be released immediately,” it added.

The organisation pointed out that another reporter, photo-journalist Maqbool Sahil, has been held without trial in Kashmir since September 2004.

A judge in the capital Srinagar on 9 December 2006 ordered the release on bail of Zeenat Rouf, who is currently in custody at a police station in Rambagh, but police have so far refused to release her.

Since 4 December, Abdul Rouf and his wife have been held under an arms law. Police who presented a first report (FIR 341/2006) accuse them of sheltering armed separatists at their home. The couple’s families deny the accusations, saying that they have never committed any crimes. Between 21 November and 4 December, the journalist was held at the Special Operations Group (SOG) centre without ever going before a judge.

A police officer in Srinagar, reached by telephone by Reporters Without Borders, refused to give any information about the reasons for their detention.

Described by his colleagues as "calm and loyal in his work", Abdul Rouf was a typographer for various publications in Srinagar for 15 years. For the past four years he has worked as deputy editor on Srinagar News.

The couple’s two daughters, Rafiya and Rubiya, and their son, Amir, who is a deaf-mute, told how the SOG agents searched the family home in Srinagar on the night of 21 November. They have been forced to take refuge at the home of a neighbour. They have been unable to return home since the house has been sealed and “police are preventing the children from having access to their clothes, books and toys,” the journalist’s brother told the newspaper Greater Kashmir.

Photo-journalist Muhammad Maqbool Khokar, better known as Maqbool Sahil, has been held in Kashmir since 18 September 2004 under an emergency public security law. Despite calls for his release from the Jammu and Kashmir High Court and the National Human Rights Commission the security services refuse to set him free.




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