Kashmir journalist remanded in police custody over terrorism charges

Aasif Sultan—who is in police custody for the past six days—according to his editor, was asked questions about some stories carried by their magazine recently and offered to work as police informer

NH photo
NH photo
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Haroon Reshi

A Srinagar court on Saturday remanded a journalist in police custody for a week over his alleged involvement in militancy related incidents in Kashmir Valley, charges that have been strongly refuted by the family.

Aasif Sultan, an assistant editor with a Srinagar based monthly news magazine “Kashmir Narrator” was picked up during a late night raid at his home in Batamaloo area of Srinagar. Police produced him before the Chief Judicial Magistrate in Srinagar on Saturday, seeking his remand, which the court granted.

The journalist and his family have strongly denied the charges, accusing police of keeping him in an illegal detention for as many as six days. “Police arrested my son on the intervening night of August 27 and 28. They did not file any case against him; instead they kept him under illegal detention. On August 31, police called me to the police station and told me that they are releasing my son. They asked me to get a witness to sign his release papers,” Muhammad Sultan, Aasif’s father told National Herald, adding, “As told, I sent for my brother Mehrajdin. When he reached police station, both of us signed a paper, which read that Aasif Sultan has been handed over to his father.”

“But then the police told us to return on Saturday. Instead of releasing him, they booked my son on false charges,” he lamented.

“The initial questioning of the accused, subsequent searches and disclosures made in the case so far have led to seizure of incriminating materials from various locations. It also establishes his complicity for harbouring known terrorists involved in serious of terror crimes,” police claimed in a press statement, adding that further investigation was ongoing.

Meanwhile, Kashmir Working Journalists Association has demanded immediate release of Aasif Sultan. The magazine, Kashmir Narrator, is learnt to have taken up the issue with international media watchdogs such as the IFJ and the CPJ.

Showkat Motta, editor of the Kashmir Narrator, said that “during his detention at the police station, Aasif was asked questions about the stories published in the recent issues of the magazine. He was even told that since he is a resourceful person therefore he should work for the police as an informer.”

“After he was picked up from home, police did not tell us his whereabouts. We approached the police station concerned several times and finally I was allowed to meet him on Friday,” Motta told National Herald.

Motta further said that he along with Delhi based activist Sushobha Barve, who is executive director Centre for Dialogue and Reconciliation, also called on SP South Srinagar, GV Sundeep Chakravarthy. “I was expecting a rational response from the senior police officer. But first, he kept us waiting for more than an hour outside his office and when he gave us audience he asked only irrelevant questions about Aasif,” he maintained, elaborating that “the SP asked me about the political ideology of Aasif Sultan. On being told how did it matter and asked why had he not been produced before the court, he got infuriated.”

Meanwhile, Kashmir Working Journalists Association has demanded immediate release of Aasif Sultan. The magazine, Kashmir Narrator, is learnt to have taken up the issue with international media watchdogs such as the IFJ and the CPJ.

Incidentally, Kamran Yusuf, a Kashmiri photo-journalist who was accused of 'waging war against India' and 'stone throwing', got bail in March this year after more than six months in jail.

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