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Kashmiri Journalist Asif Sultan granted bail in five-year-old UAPA case

Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan has been granted bail by a special court in Srinagar in connection with a five-year-old case under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The case relates to a 2019 incident at Srinagar’s Central Jail, where inmates allegedly set fire to barracks and threw stones at prison staff.

Sultan was arrested on February 29, just two days after his release from a five-year detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA). The PSA allows authorities to detain individuals without trial for up to two years on grounds of national security, or up to a year for maintaining public order.

In its May 10 order, the special court under the National Investigation Act in Srinagar noted that the police had 72 days to interrogate Sultan while he was in custody. The court found no compelling reason to deny him bail, citing his previous detention under the PSA until February 2024 and no adverse conduct during his judicial custody.

Judge Sandeep Gandotra stated that there was a low risk of Sultan fleeing, as he is a permanent resident of Jammu and Kashmir. The court granted bail with a bond worth Rs 1 lakh, and Sultan must appear before the investigating officer as required and provide his mobile numbers.

Sultan’s release follows a long legal struggle. On February 27, he was freed from Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar district jail after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his detention due to procedural lapses. However, his release was delayed pending clearance letters from Kashmir’s home department and Srinagar district magistrate.

Despite the High Court ruling, Sultan faced immediate re-arrest upon his return to Srinagar. He was summoned to Rainawari police station and detained again in connection with the Nowhatta police station case. This pattern of repeated detentions has raised concerns about legal and human rights processes in the region.

Sultan was initially detained in April 2022 under preventive detention laws, just days after receiving bail in another UAPA case. Since August 2018, he had been accused of harboring militants, a charge that has drawn significant attention and criticism from international human rights organizations.

The case of Asif Sultan highlights the complex legal and political challenges faced by journalists in Kashmir. His repeated detentions underscore ongoing tensions between security measures and press freedom in the region.

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