Kashmiri separatist Yasin Malik demands in-person court appearance

JKLF figure says he renounced violence in 1994, but Indian authorities reject his claims

A soldier stands guard as a helicopter evacuates civilians in flooded areas in Srinagar, Indian-administered Kashmir, on July 9. The sentencing of a high-profile separatist has heightened tensions in the region. AP
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A high-profile Kashmiri separatist has said he does not wish to attend trial via video link from a prison in India's capital, Delhi, but wishes to appear in court in person.

Yasin Malik was sentenced to life in prison in May on charges of funding terrorism, but also stands accused of killing four Indian air force recruits in 1990, in addition to two charges of abduction — one related to the daughter of an Indian government minister in 1989.

His sentencing led to riots across Indian-administered Kashmir.

Rubaiya Sayeed, the daughter of former Indian Home Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed, was kidnapped by the separatist Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), which Maliki led at the time.

The group, which was briefly supported by Pakistan, demanded the release of prisoners in return for her freedom. The Indian government released five militants and she was released.

In the ensuing years, kidnapping and murder became a common tactic used by militant groups in Kashmir, during a conflict that led to tens of thousands of deaths. More groups emerged, including some linked to Al Qaeda, eventually surpassing the JKLF in influence.

Indian security forces also stood accused of human rights abuses during retaliatory operations.

Malik, who was detained in 2019, claimed to have given up violent struggle in 1994, saying he later followed non-violent resistance tactics espoused by Mahatma Gandhi. Indian authorities say he was still involved in terrorism as recently as 2016.

Malik’s sentencing drew a strong reaction from Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, who said it marked a dark day for Indian democracy. Both India and Pakistan claim the mountainous territory of Kashmir, an area that has been rocked by violence since 1988, when an uprising against Indian rule broke out.

Malik was appearing on trial for the killing and abduction cases, via video link from prison in Delhi. But he complained of poor sound quality when a prosecution witness statement was read out.

The trial is expected to continue on Friday.

Updated: July 14, 2022, 12:25 PM