New York, January 13, 2003—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) welcomes the release from prison today of Iftikhar Gilani, New Delhi bureau chief for the Jammu-based newspaper Kashmir Times. Authorities had accused Gilani of possessing classified documents “prejudicial to the safety and security of the country,” a charge they finally admitted was unsubstantiated.

“Iftikhar Gilani’s release is long overdue,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “The fact that the Indian government imprisoned a journalist for seven months without providing any solid evidence against him is outrageous.”

Police arrested Gilani on June 9, 2002, following a raid on his New Delhi home by officers from various agencies, including the Intelligence Bureau, the Special Branch of Police, and the Income Tax Department. Authorities confiscated Gilani’s computer and several documents, including bank statements, according to his wife.

Authorities accused Gilani of possessing classified documents and arrested him under the provisions of India’s Official Secrets Act, a draconian law that is a legacy of British colonial rule. However, the document cited by investigators as central to the case had been published in a Pakistani journal and was readily available on the Internet. Though journalists and international organizations, including CPJ, highlighted this information in the days immediately following Gilani’s arrest, military intelligence officials conceded the point only in December.

In a December 12 evaluation of the document in question, intelligence officials admitted that the paper was “easily available” and of “negligible security value.” The government, however, did not move to withdraw the case against Gilani until January 10, 2003. The Metropolitan Magistrate’s Court in Delhi ordered Gilani’s release on January 13.