Police detained Aasif Sultan, a journalist with the monthly magazine Kashmir Narrator, during a raid on his home in Srinagar on the night of August 27, 2018. Jammu and Kashmir police formally arrested him on August 31, according to a police statement seen by CPJ, and later charged him with “complicity” in “harboring known terrorists” under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, according to Indian news website Scroll. The charges stem from his name being added to a First Information Report--the primary step in an Indian police investigation--filed in response to a gunfight in the Batamaloo region of Kashmir on August 12.
Sultan’s editor, Showkat Motta, told CPJ that he has been repeatedly denied bail, even though Jammu and Kashmir amended its plea to drop the most serious charges, such as conspiracy against the state and planning a terror attack.
Police seized four cell phones, Sultan’s laptop, books, and journals during the raid that resulted in his arrest, according to Scroll.
According to a statement filed on October 3 before a judge in Srinagar, the state accused Sultan of being in touch with a militant group and promoting it on social media. Motta and Sultan’s family disputed this claim and said that Sultan was being targeted for his work as a journalist.
In July, Sultan wrote a cover story for the Kashmir Narrator on the slain Kashmiri militant Burhan Wani, whose killing by Indian security forces set off a wave of anti-government demonstrations in Kashmir in July 2016. Sultan’s story included interviews with non-combatant members of Wani’s militant group, Hizbul Mujahideen, and according to Motta, police pressured Sultan to disclose his sources for the story.
According to Scroll, police have subjected Sultan to repeated interrogation during his detention, including questions about why he reported on the conflict in Kashmir, why he had not reported on development in the state, and questions about headlines that had appeared in the Kashmir Narrator.
In late 2018, Sultan was being held in Central Jail, Srinagar. According to his editor, Sultan has been suffering from acute stomach pain due to the jail diet.
No trial was underway, and no charge sheet had been filed. According to the judgment given by the local court rejecting his bail on November 13, of which CPJ has a copy, Sultan is accused of aiding as well as being a member of Hizbul Mujahideen, which has been banned.