India arrests Kashmiri activist under controversial law

SRINAGAR, India // Authorities in Indian-controlled Kashmir have charged a leading human rights activist under a controversial security law after immediately taking him back into custody when a local court ordered him freed from police detention.

Police on Thursday said Khurram Parvez was formally booked on Wednesday night under the Public Safety Act that allows detention for up to six months without a trial.

Mr Parvez and local and international human rights groups have long campaigned for abrogation of the act, saying it violates India’s obligations under international law.

Police gave no other details.

Last Thursday, immigration officials at New Delhi’s international airport barred Mr Parvez from boarding a plane to Geneva without offering any official explanation, although he had a valid visa and a letter of invitation to participate in a session of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

A day later, Mr Parvez was arrested at his home in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar to prevent him from “causing a breach of peace”.

A local court ordered his release on Tuesday but police immediately rearrested him at the prison gate. He was then charged under the Public Safety Act on Wednesday and sent to a prison 300 kilometres from his home.

“Detaining a person right after he is released, without any intention to charge him or bring him to trial, amounts to using a revolving door of persecution,” said Aakar Patel, head of the Indian chapter of Amnesty International. “This kind of arbitrary use of the law suggests that the police are determined to lock up Khurram Parvez at any cost.”

He said Mr Parvez “must be protected from torture or other ill-treatment, given access to his family and lawyers, and provided adequate medical care”.

Mr Parvez uses a prosthetic limb because his right leg was amputated after a land mine injury in 2004.

His detention comes amid the largest protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers. The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralysed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

More than 80 civilians have been killed and thousands injured, mostly by government forces firing bullets and shotgun pellets at rock-throwing protesters. Two policemen have also been killed and hundreds of government forces have been injured in the clashes.

Mr Parvez, 39, and his organization, the Coalition of Civil Society, were the first to report and draw attention to thousands of unmarked mass graves in remote parts of Kashmir and to demand that the government investigate them to determine who the dead were and how they were killed.

His organisation also has written scathing reports about brutality involving some of the hundreds of thousands of Indian troops in the region and highlighted widespread powers granted to troops which led to a culture of impunity and widespread rights abuses.

He currently also heads a Philippine-based rights group, the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both. A militant uprising and subsequent Indian military crackdown since 1989 have killed more than 68,000 people.

* Associated Press

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