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India 18 June 2002

Official reason for Kashmiri journalist’s arrest is challenged


The hearings resumed in the Geelani case on 18 June. The journalist had been remanded in custody for a further three days on 15 June. According to V.K Ohri, Iftikhar Geelani’s lawyer, the documents seized from his client’s home had been available on the Internet since 1993.


Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) called today for the release of Kashmiri journalist Iftikhar Ali Geelani and suggested his arrest was an attempt to restrict coverage of events in Kashmir.

"Charging a Kashmiri journalist under the Official Secrets Act in present circumstances would seem an effort to intimidate any media which tries to report independently on the conflict in the province," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Indian interior minister Lal Krishna Advani.

Calling on him to explain the arrest and charging of Geelani, who is New Delhi bureau chief of the Indian daily Kashmir Times and also correspondent for the Pakistani daily The Nation, he said the case against the journalist was "weak."

He also asked the minister to make a speedy inquiry into the beating-up of another Kashmiri journalist by Indian police who, he said, "seem incapable of putting a stop to a wave of physical attacks and attempts to kill journalists in Kashmir. It would be regrettable if the government allowed the climate of impunity enjoyed by these attackers to increase," he added.

Geelani was charged today under the secrets act and police were granted a further five days to hold him for questioning.  He was arrested on 9 June at his New Delhi home by tax department officers and police but was then accused of storing information in his laptop computer about India’s military presence in Kashmir.  He pointed out that this material was from a 1997 US State Department report and had already been published in the Indian daily The Hindu. 

The daily Hindustan Times said the journalist had admitted to his interrogators that he worked for Pakistani intelligence but this has not been confirmed by other sources.  Many Kashmiri journalists, as well as the New Delhi journalists’ union, have condemned his arrest, which came soon after the detention of his father-in-law, Kashmiri leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, who has been charged under an anti-terrorist law and accused of being in the pay of Pakistani intelligence.

Another Kashmiri journalist, Mohammad Yusuf Dar, a reporter for the Daily Excelsior in Jammu (Kashmir), was beaten and insulted by police and detained for two hours on 10 June. The independent English-language daily Kashmir Images said he was arrested on his way home.

Police have still not made any serious investigation into the attempt to kill Zafar Iqbal, of Kashmir Images, who was shot and seriously wounded by masked men at his office in Srinagar on 29 May.  His colleagues told Reporters Without Borders that police had made no effort to guard the paper’s offices and made no inquiry into the shooting.

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