‘Mere assumptions’: Kashmiri journalist released after 13 months in jail

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Mohammad Manan Dar, a journalist from Indian illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, who was arrested by India’s notorious National Investigation Agency (NIA) on fake charges, has been released after more than a year, with the court in the bail order referring to the charges against him as mere assumptions.

According to Kashmir Media Service, Mohammad Manan Dar, a resident of Batamaloo area of Srinagar walked out of New Delhi’s Tihar jail on Tuesday evening. A family member of Manan Dar who received him outside the jail in presence of his lawyers, in a media interview, said that he [Manan] is in high spirits and looks forward to continuing his work as a journalist.

Manan Dar who worked as a freelance photojournalist, was arrested by the NIA along with others, including his brother Hanan Dar, in October 2021 on fake charges under the draconian law, Unlawful Activities Prevention Act. In its chargesheet, the agency, citing witnesses and data recovered from Manan’s phone, claimed that before his arrest, he was working “under the cover of a photojournalist” to “share details” about Indian troops and their deployment in Kashmir with Mujahid organizations.

In its bail order, the Delhi court ruled that the Indian probe agency’s evidence against Manan is not sufficient to prove the charge. The court observed that the evidence brought before the court as well as the witness statements was insufficient to prove that Manan was involved in any illegal activity.

Rejecting the NIA’s assertion, the court observed that the allegation “must be supported by direct evidence”. “Mere assumptions or incomplete evidence to establish such facts may not be sufficient,” the court ruled, observing that the witness statements are inconclusive to prove Manan’s involvement in ‘militant’ activities.

Earlier during the bail hearing, Manan’s lawyers Pankaj Tamanna and Priya Vats told the court that he [Manan] was illegally detained by the agency for two weeks and later shown as arrested on October 22, 2021 and the allegations against him were based on conjectures and devoid of any concrete evidence. After hearing the arguments, the court granted bail to Manan on bail bond Rs. 50,000 while barring him from going abroad.

As a photojournalist, Manan contributed his work to online stock photo news websites.—KMS