Kashmiri journalist booked under stringent anti-terror law released after five years in prison

Asif Sultan, a Kashmiri journalist, was released on Tuesday after five years in detention. Screengrab (NewsClickin / YouTube)
Asif Sultan, a Kashmiri journalist, was released on Tuesday after five years in detention. Screengrab (NewsClickin / YouTube)

Kashmiri journalist Asif Sultan, one of first media professionals booked under a stringent anti-terror law, was released from jail on Tuesday after being incarcerated for over five years.

He was released on Tuesday following a delay of over two months after the Jammu and Kashmir High Court quashed his detention due to procedural lapses.

Sultan had been incarcerated for over five years in a jail in Uttar Pradesh’s Ambedkar Nagar district. His continued detention even after the High Court’s decision was attributed to the pending arrival of “clearance letters” from the Home Department of Kashmir and the Srinagar district magistrate.

In September 2018, Sultan was detained under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), accused of offering logistical aid to a prohibited militant organisation. Four years later, on 5 April 2022, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court approved his release on bail, citing the investigative agencies’ inability to prove his association with any militant group.

However, just four days after this decision, the district magistrate of Srinagar ordered his detention under the Public Safety Act (PSA).

On 11 December, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court annulled Sultan’s detention under the PSA, stating that the necessary procedural steps were not adequately followed. According to this law, individuals can be detained without trial for up to two years for national security reasons and up to a year to maintain public order.

Justice Vinod Chatterji Koul noted that the authorities seemed to consider the case against Sultan under the anti-terror law while detaining him under the Public Safety Act, but failed to provide him with essential documents like the FIR or statements recorded under Section 161 of the criminal procedure. This omission prevented Sultan from effectively challenging his detention order.

The court then ordered his release, declaring the detention illegal and unsustainable due to the failure to supply the necessary documents to Sultan.

Sultan was a journalist with the monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator when he was arrested.

In July 2018, he wrote an article for the magazine focusing on Burhan Wani, a Kashmiri militant whose death at the hands of Indian forces in July 2016 sparked widespread protests against the government in Kashmir.

The article featured insights from non-fighting members of the Hizbul Mujahideen, the group Wani was part of, which is recognised as a terrorist organisation by India.

Motta Sultan, his brother, claimed that police exerted pressure on Sultan to reveal his sources for the article. Sultan’s lawyer, Adil Pandit, said his release was a “huge relief for him and his family”.

Sultan’s father, Mohammad Sultan, was quoted as saying by Newslaundry that his grand daughter was “six months old when he was arrested, and now she is six years old. And she doesn’t recognise her father”.

He added that she used to “ask us every day when she would get to see him. We would always say ‘tomorrow’”.