By Muslim Mirror Network
Acourt here has remanded Kashmiri journalist and twocircles.net Editor, Irfan Mehraj, to 10 days of National Investigation Agency (NIA) custody.
Mehraj was arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on Monday from his Srinagar residence and was produced on Wednesday before Patiala House Court. NIA sought 12 days of remand to interrogate Mehraj.
Mehraj has been charged under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 124-A (inciting disaffection towards government through words, signs, etc. of the Indian Penal Code and 17 (fundraising for terror activities), 18 (conspiracy to commit terror act), 22A & 22C (relating to offences committed by registered companies), 38 (offence relating to membership of a terrorist organisation), 39 (supporting terrorist organisation) and 40 (raising funds for terrorist organisation) of the UAPA, 1967.
On Tuesday, several national and international human rights groups, media bodies, concerned individuals and journalists raised serious concerns over Mehraj’s arrest and demanded his immediate release.
Condemning the arrest, the Editors Guild of India said in a statement: “Irfan Mehraj’s arrest continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment. These include journalists Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul, and Fahad Shah. The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir.”
Press Club of India (PCI demanded Mehraj’s release calling his arrest a “violation of freedom of speech and expression”. The PCI tweeted on Monday: “We vehemently oppose the imposing of UAPA on media persons. The misuse of this draconian law by NIA in randomly arresting Irfan Mehraj, a journalist from Kashmir, ominously points towards a violation of freedom of speech and expression.” It demanded his immediate release.
Aakar Patel, the chair of Amnesty International in India, said Mehraj’s arrest was “a gross injustice” and “travesty”.
In a statement, he said that “the arrest is yet another instance of the long-drawn repression of human rights and crackdown of media freedom and civil society in the region of Jammu and Kashmir”.
Patel further asserted that journalists such as Irfan Mehraj should be “protected and not persecuted” and that he must be “immediately released”.
In a strongly worded statement, he went on to say that the suppression of freedom of speech and stifling of human rights continues unabated in Kashmir.
Mary Lawlor, United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defender, denounced the arrest and called for his immediate release.
“But some of these organisations have developed links with proscribed terrorist outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM),” NIA said.
Activist Parvez was arrested in November 2021 by the NIA and chargesheeted on May 13 next year, along with six others, for alleged anti-national activities, including collecting information regarding vital installations and deployment and movement of security forces, procuring official secret documents and passing the same to LeT handlers through encrypted communication channels for monetary consideration. ( With PTI inputs)