Indian court frees two Kashmiris
1 May 2004
The Daily Times
NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Saturday ordered the release of two Kashmiri leaders following the withdrawal of cases against them by the government. Seventy-one-year old Professor GM Sheikh and Saifuddin Bhat were in Dehi's Tihar Jail for the past year on charges of waging war against the country.Additional Sessions Judge RK Yadav released Prof Sheikh and his accomplice Mr Bhat as the prosecution had moved an application seeking the withdrawal of cases against them on the grounds that their release would 'result in creating a better atmosphere' for the current peace initiative in Kashmir.Though the government orders had come almost a week ago, their release was delayed as the judge first wanted to see documented proof of the official decision to withdraw the cases. When the prosecution submitted the proof in the court on Friday, the judge asked the prosecution to explain the relevance of these two leaders in the current peace process and how the peace process initiated by the centre would be benefited by their release.The judge ordered the release only after he was shown a video film in the court on Saturday that showed Prof Sheikh with Kashmir Committee chief Ram Jethmalani. The video clip showed both talking about the Kashmir issue and ways to settle it. Later, the judge said he was convinced about the relevance of Prof Sheikh and his accomplice in carrying forward the peace process and thereby ordered their release.The decision to withdraw cases of four accused including Prof Sheikh, Saifuddin Bhat both under Section 121 and Hurriyat spokesman in Delhi Shabbir Ahmed Dar and journalist Ghulam Mohiuddin booked under Prevention of Terrorist Activity Act (POTA) was taken by New Delhi in consultation with the state government after Hurriyat raised the issue of their release in their meetings with Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani on January 22 and March 27.