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India 13 January 2003

Kashmiri journalist free after seven months in detention

Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières) welcomed the release today of Indian journalist Iftikhar Gilani but regretted that it came after seven months of detention without evidence and without trial. The organisation supported the request for compensation his lawyer plans to make to the government for the damage to his reputation as a journalist and his arbitrary detention.

"This is a humiliating defeat for the interior minister, who abused his power, and a belated but substantial victory for press freedom in India," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard said.

On January 13, he correspondent of the Kashmir Times of India and Daily Times and The Nation of Pakistan, Gilani was released from Tehar prison in New Delhi. On leaving the prison he said: "It is a lesson for everyone and also for those journalists who believed the prosecutor’s theory without checking the facts... Nothing can compensate for the freedom of an individual."

Gilani was detained on 9 June 2002 by a team of policemen and tax officials. The police accused him first of fraud, then pornography and finally of having plans of the Indian military presence in Kashmir on his laptop. He was formally arrested on 10 June under the official secrets act. His detention was initially provisional, but was extended eight times.

Journalists in Kashmir held demonstrations calling for his release throughout the period of his detention. Reporters Without Borders said in September: "The charge of spying for a foreign power is a big favourite of governments trying to silence or intimidate journalists who criticise (...) This charge is not based on anything concrete."

In June, V. K. Ohri, Gilani’s lawyer proved to the court handling his case that the documents he had on his laptop were freely available on an Internet site. An Indian military intelligence official confirmed to the judge on 23 December that nothing secret had been found on Gilani’s computer. As a result, the Indian government was forced to drop their case and on January 10 asked the court to release him.

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