Jammu and Kashmir Police files chargesheet against eight, including journalist Aasif Sultan, for links with Hizbul Mujahideen

New Delhi: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has filed a chargesheet against eight people, including journalist Aasif Sultan, for allegedly harbouring militants and conspiring with banned terror group Hizbul Mujahideen, officials said on Thursday.

Police had registered a case after militants had escaped from a residential area of Batmaloo in August in 2018 after firing indiscriminately at a police searching party. Constable Parvaiz Ahmad had died in the attack.

File image of Jammu and Kashmir Police. AFP

File image of Jammu and Kashmir Police. AFP

Besides the journalist, police also charge-sheeted Mohammed Shafeeq Bhat, Waseem Khan, Bilal Ahmed Bhat and Shazia under various sections, including those relating to murder, of the Ranbir Penal Code and the Arms Act. Three absconding, active militants of Hizbul Mujahideen — Abbas Sheikh, Aqib Nazir and Tehseen Ahmed — have been named in the chargesheet.

The Jammu and Kashmir Police has secured prosecution sanctions under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act against all the accused named in the chargesheet. During the preliminary investigation, the involvement of Mohammed Shafiq Bhat and Wasim Ahmed Khan was established in harbouring the militants in Bhat's house.

They were arrested and thoroughly questioned to unearth the conspiracy during which the identity of the escaped militants was ascertained as Umar Rashid, Umar Majeed and Aqib Nazir -- belonging to Hizbul Mujahideen. Khan, during interrogation, also mentioned that the group of militants was involved in the snatching of weapons from Dalgate area on 17 May in 2018.

He also named Aasif Sultan, Bilal Ahmed Bhat, an employee of Government Medical College, and Shazia as overground workers of Hizbul Mujahideen terror group. Shazia, during her questioning, also gave a statement on the involvement of all the five persons, including the journalist, in various terror activities.

Shazia further alleged that the scribe was a key worker of Hizbul Mujahideen and a close associate of wanted terrorist Abbas Sheikh, who she claimed had stayed with him at his Srinagar house on earlier occasions. At her instance, police conducted raids at Sultan's house and recovered 17 letterheads of the banned terror group.

Police has recorded the statement of some independent witnesses before a judicial magistrate in which role of all the five accused has been established. Police alleged that the journalist was involved in various terror activities. "During the investigation, the Facebook account of Sultan was perused which revealed that the accused is circulating and propagating messages of banned Hizbul Mujahideen outfit."

The chargesheet comes three weeks after the Committee to Protect Journalists, a global organisation advocating press freedom, had appealed to Jammu and Kashmir Governor Satya Pal Malik to release Sultan.

In a letter to Malik, the CPJ had advocated releasing the journalist, who works for a weekly newspaper, and said "freedom of the press is a vital tenet of democracy and a proud part of India's history. We urge you to use the authority vested in you as governor of Jammu and Kashmir to help immediately ensure that Aasif Sultan is released and that the charges against him are dropped".

The journalist had approached sessions court for a bail which was rejected. Under UAPA, the police is supposed to file a chargesheet within six months after the arrest.

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Updated Date: Feb 07, 2019 20:32:06 IST

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