Court Charges Kashmir Separatist With Sedition
8 June 2006
Jammu: A hardline Kashmiri separatist leader has been charged with sedition by an Indian court in the troubled Himalayan region and ordered into police custody five years after an arrest warrant was issued. Police said 77-year-old Syed Ali Shah Geelani, head of a breakaway faction of the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, an alliance of separatist parties, was arrested on Wednesday on arriving in Poonch, a town 144 km (90 miles) northwest of Kashmir's winter capital, Jammu.'Soon after he checked in Hotel Star in Poonch town, our police party immediately took him into custody,' a senior police official, requesting not to be named, told Reuters. A local magistrate ordered Geelani, who says he requires constant medical attention due to heart problems, into police custody until June 29. Geelani's supporters staged protests in Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar on Thursday, and his party called for a strike on Friday. 'Geelani is the most influential and trusted leader in Kashmir. His arrest is an undemocratic act and demonstrates the high handedness of authorities,' said a party statement. A warrant for Geelani's arrest was issued in Poonch in 2001 on charges of inciting people against the Indian state during a series of speeches. Kashmir is at the heart of 60 years of animosity between India and Pakistan. Both countries claim the region in full and have fought two wars over the territory. Geelani's faction supports joining Pakistan and is backed by most of the militants groups still fighting in Indian Kashmir. He has been arrested and jailed on several occasions for making statements encouraging people to support Kashmir's integration into Pakistan.