The court will hear the bail plea on March 7
New Delhi: A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in New Delhi on Thursday reserved its order on the bail plea of freelance photo-journalist Kamran Yousuf, who is in NIA’s custody since six months.
Additional Sessions Judge Tarun Sherawat reserved the order for March 7 after hearing arguments from Yousuf’s side and that of the National Investigation Agency (NIA), which said that the allegations levelled against Yousuf were ‘serious in nature’.
Kamran Yousuf was summoned to the local police station in Kashmir on September 4, 2017, and handed over to the NIA the next day after which he was flown to New Delhi.
The hearing of the legal case of Kamran Yousuf, booked under charges of stone pelting had been delayed yesterday, on Tuesday, after the judge hearing the case did not appear, ‘due to illness’.
Condemning the arrest of Kamran Yousuf, 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, had written 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.”
“It is not up to the Indian interior ministry to decide what a journalist is supposed to cover,” Daniel Bastard had said, 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.”
Speaking to Free Press Kashmir on the condition of anonymity, a human rights lawyer from New Delhi, familiar with Kamran’s case, had said 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.
“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.
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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