India arrests Kashmiri human rights activist

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India’s counter-terrorism agency has arrested a prominent Kashmiri human rights activist under a draconian anti-terrorism law which makes it nearly impossible to get bail.

Khurram Parvez has been accused of “terror-funding” and “conspiracy”.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) arrested him after raids at his home and office in Indian-administered Kashmir. Mr Parvez is yet to comment.

But the arrest has caused global outrage amid calls for his release.

Activists and others on social media have called the arrest an attempt to “silence and punish human rights defenders”.

Mr Parvez has long been a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government. His Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS), a group based in Kashmir, has published several scathing reports on human rights violations and excesses committed by security forces in the Valley.

He is also the chairperson of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances (Afad), an international rights organization that looks into the forced disappearances in Kashmir and elsewhere in Asia.

In 2016, Indian authorities had arrested Mr Parvez a day after he was barred from traveling to Switzerland to attend the 33rd session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, and had charged him under the controversial Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows detention without charge for up to two years.

He was released after 76 days in prison after increased pressure from international rights groups.

On Monday, investigators from the NIA searched his home and the office of JKCCS in Srinagar, Kashmir’s main city. He was initially taken for questioning and was arrested later in the evening.

The police have charged him under various sections of the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, including “criminal conspiracy”, “attempt to wage war against the government” and for “raising funds for terrorist acts and a terrorist organization”.

The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, said she was disturbed to hear about Mr Parvez’s arrest. “He is not a terrorist, he is a human rights defender,” she wrote on Twitter.


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