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Indian journalist arrested on terrorism charges released on bail

(IFJ/IFEX) - October 24, 2012 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins partners in India in welcoming the release on bail of Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, an Indian journalist held in custody for seven months on charges of terrorism.

Following orders passed by the Supreme Court of India on October 19, Kazmi was released after posting a bail bond of two hundred thousand Indian rupees (roughly four thousand U.S. dollars) the following day.

Kazmi was arrested on March 6 on charges of aiding and abetting a February 15 bomb attack on an Israeli diplomatic vehicle in India's capital city. At that time, he was working for an Iranian news agency in Delhi and also for India's state-owned TV channel, Doordarshan, as a news presenter in Urdu language bulletins. His bail application which first came up before the Chief Metropolitan Magistrate of Delhi in April, was turned down on the grounds that investigations were still underway. On June 2, despite charges still not being laid, the Magistrate extended Kazmi's remand beyond the ninety days permitted under Indian law.

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ), a constituent unit of the IFJ-affiliated Indian Journalists' Union, had demanded that the Special Cell of the Delhi Police which had arrested Kazmi, follow a policy of full transparency in pursuing the case. Information since made available points to a possibility that Kazmi's arrest was made on unclear and insufficient evidence.

The DUJ has welcomed Kazmi's release on bail. In a statement released on October 23, DUJ President Sujata Madhok and General Secretary, S.K. Pande, called for a rigorous introspection from the media on the coverage of Kazmi's arrest, and its implications for press freedom and human rights reporting.

A substantial part of the case against Kazmi was built on his telephone records, which revealed a number of calls to Iran's capital, Tehran, around the time that the bomb attack against the Israeli diplomatic vehicle occurred. The DUJ has argued that this was in all probability, only about Kazmi attending to his professional responsibilities as a reporter for a news agency based in the Iranian capital city.

"Journalists have to maintain all sorts of contacts and speak to a variety of sources for their news stories," said the DUJ. "Such connections for professional purposes should not be misconstrued as active collusion or connivance in dubious activities, including crime."

The IFJ once again underlines the need for full transparency on the part of the prosecution and calls for strict adherence to the principle of the presumption of innocence, when hearings in the case resume in the Delhi Sessions Court.

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