Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) today denounced India’s formal accusation of "military spying" against journalist Iftikhar Gilani.
"The charge of spying for a foreign power is a big favourite of governments trying to silence or intimidate journalists who criticise," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to Indian interior minister Lal Krishna Advani, who is also vice-premier.
"This charge is not based on anything concrete," he said, demanding that Gilani, who is New Delhi bureau chief of the Kashmir Times and correspondent for the Pakistani daily The Nation, be freed at once and the charges against him dropped. The Kashmiri-born Gilani has been in prison for the past three months.
Police in New Delhi formally charged him on 7 September with spying by handing over to Pakistan documents about the position of Indian soldiers and paramilitary forces in the disputed territory of Kashmir.
The charges brought before Judge Sangeeta Dhingra Sehgal were based on several articles of the Official Secrets Act and on article 120-B (concerning criminal conspiracy) and article 292 (concerning pornography) of the Indian penal code.
Police claim Gilani confessed that documents found in his apartment were being sent to Pakistan. The charges came two days before expiry of the 90-day limit for Gilani to be held without charges. The court set for 16 September a hearing for an application for his release on bail.
After successively accusing Gilani of financial irregularities, spying and involvement in pornography, police said they had found in his computer a document downloaded from an Internet website about the fighting in Kashmir. The document is available to any Internet user, but the judge handling the case said she "did not have time to check this out".
Gilani, who is being held in Tihar prison, says he is innocent and recently told Reporters Without Borders he was "very depressed." At the start of his imprisonment, he was beaten by other detainees and he was refused access to the prison library.