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India arrests Kashmiri rights activist under anti-terror law

Khurram Parvez is one of Kashmir's best known activists. Source: Indian Express.

NEW DELHI: The United Nations and human rights groups have criticised the arrest of prominent activist Khurram Parvez in Indian-occupied Jammu and Kashmir on terror funding charges.

Khurram Parvez was arrested late on Monday by India’s federal National Investigation Agency (NIA) under a draconian anti-terrorism law which makes it nearly impossible to get bail. His residence and office were searched and a mobile phone, laptop and books seized. He was initially taken for questioning and was arrested later in the evening.

A spokesperson for India’s counter-terrorism agency confirmed Parvez’s arrest on Tuesday. He is being held under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, which allows for the detention of up to six months without trial including “criminal conspiracy”, “attempt to wage war against the government” and for “raising funds for terrorist acts and a terrorist organisation”.

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”.

Mary Lawlor, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, called Parvez’s arrest “disturbing”. “He’s not a terrorist, he’s a human rights defender,” she said in a tweet.

Parvez, one of Kashmir’s best known activists, is head of Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, a group of rights organisations working in the region. He has long been a vocal critic of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and has published several scathing reports on human rights violations and excesses committed by security forces in the restive region.

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

He was arrested and detained on similar charges in 2016, after being prevented from boarding a flight to attend a UN human rights forum in Geneva. He was eventually released without being convicted of any crime after 76 days in prison after increased pressure from international rights groups.

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