Journalist Kamran Yousuf does not ‘face life imprisonment’ as reported by Al Jazeera

What may imply a possible sentence is said as a matter of fact 

The case is in its initial stages, Kamran is to appear in court tomorrow for a decision on his bail application 

The hearing of the legal case of Kamran Yousuf, a Kashmiri photojournalist, booked under charges of stone pelting has been delayed, after the judge hearing the case did not appear, ‘due to illness’.

Kamran today was to appear in court for a decision on his bail application. The case is likely to be heard tomorrow, on February 28.

The arrest of Kamran has been widely reported and covered by the international press. A report was published by Aljazeera, titled ‘Kashmir journalist Kamran Yusuf faces life imprisonment’. What appears to be referring to a possible sentence, in the worst case, the case is still ongoing, and the judgement has not been pronounced.

The report comes clean on facts, saying that he faces the sentence if convicted, except the misleading headline, which created a scare among the journalism fraternity in Kashmir.

“When I read the headline, I thought the sentence has been pronounced since the hearing was today,” said Vikar Syed, a photo-journalist working with Kamran during the 2016 uprising, during which his videos went viral on social media. The hearing today, was for the bail application, and not the final judgement.

“Vikar’s face got pale when he read the news,” says a Journalist who was accompanying him on a story.

“We thought the sentence has been pronounced, it was like a nightmare,” said Shahriyar Hussaini, a photo journalist and an associate of Kamran Yousuf.

The alleged Act under which Kamran has been booked is for ‘Stone Pelting’, and the Section under which this act falls is of ‘Waging War Against the State’. The defense as of now is defending the charges of stone pelting as the ‘act committed’.

There are other charges, the worst possible sentence for which may be imprisonment for life, or a death penalty. But the case is still in its initial stages.

“The defence has shown everything in court. Clearly, there is nothing against Kamran. The court will take the decision and its not in the hands of the defence after that,” Kamran’s Lawyer had told Free Press Kashmir, adding that he has been denying all the allegations since day one.

Global journalists’ body Reporters Without Borders (RWB), or Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), an international non-profit, non-governmental organization that promotes and defends freedom of information and freedom of the press, also wrote on its website, “arrested on 5 September for allegedly participating in a demonstration in Kashmir, the 23-year-old Kamran Yousuf is facing a ‘possible death sentence’ on spurious charges for trying to cover one of the world’s most secret conflicts.”

ALSO READ: Global journalists’ bodies back Kamran Yousuf, says NIA has no business defining what ‘real journalists’ should cover

“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The contradictory nature of the charges clearly shows that Kamran Yousuf is being used as a scapegoat in order to intimidate journalists who try to document the situation in Kashmir.”

The charge-sheet against 12 accused dated January 18, 2018, which accuses Yousuf with stone-pelting and conspiracy says: “Had he been a real journalist/stringer by profession, he may have performed one of the moral duty (sic) of a journalist which is to cover the activities and happening (good or bad) in his jurisdiction. He had never covered any developmental activity of any Government Department/Agency, any inauguration of Hospital, School Building, Road, Bridge, statement of political party in power or any other social/developmental activity by state government or Govt of India.”

ALSO READ: #JournalismIsNotACrime: Why Kamran Yousuf is not Paul Comiti

Speaking to Free Press Kashmir on the condition of anonymity, a human rights lawyer from New Delhi, familiar with Kamran’s case, says that he has been ‘kept in custody illegally’.

According to the source, Kamran’s lawyer while countering NIA’s first allegation, argued that Kamran was in fact present at the places where stone pelting took place, as a journalist, and had submitted and pitched those photographs to organisation he freelanced for.

ALSO READ: Abuse of Kashmiri Prisoners in Jails: Who said what

“NIA comes in when it is a very serious offence of some kind. It’s not like your regular state police. Why is his case being separated from everyone else’s? There is no justification on record etc. It’s discriminatory, and plain harassment,” Kamran’s defense lawyer had told Free Press Kashmir.

On September 14, Press Council of India (PCI) had issued a notice to the National Investigation Agency (NIA), Jammu and Kashmir police, and other state officials over the arrest of Kamran Yousuf.

ALSO READ: NIA files Chagesheet in alleged ‘terror funding’ case, Hafiz Saeed named along with Kamran Yousuf, Altaf Shah

Taking a suo-motu cognizance regarding the arrest of the photojournalist, PCI has given two weeks time to the respondents to reply to the notice.

The letter addressed to the National Investigation Agency officials, officials of Government of Jammu and Kashmir and to Jammu and Kashmir Police said that the matter is a “prima facie concerned with the freedom of press in the country”.


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