Police on Monday raided the house of senior journalist and editor of Urdu newspaper, Daily Afaaq, Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, and lodged him at police station Shaheed Gunj during the night. Later on Tuesday he was bailed out by Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) Srinagar, Gowhar Majeed, who directed the police to explain their position in the case and submit a “ case diary” on 31 July, when the case is listed for hearing.
Qadri who is both the owner and editor of the Urdu daily was arrested in a raid at 11.30 pm after he had returned home from his office work. The case was registered against him and seven others in 90’s, when militancy was at its peak in the Kashmir. The case was registered against him for publishing the news and press releases issued by militant groups through news agency J and K News, said Jeelani’s journalist brother Morifat Qadri.
“The way he was arrested shows the aim was to harass the journalist and family,” said Morifat.
The seven others accused in the case are former editor of Urdu daily Srinagar Times, Ghulam Mohammad Sofi, Ghulam Rasool Arif, who then worked with Hamdard newspaper, Saad-din of Azaan newspaper—all the three have died—and Ghulam Nabi Shaida of Waddi ki Awaaz, Shaqeeq Aijaz, Peer Abdul Shakoor, of Azaan and Ashiq Kashmiri.
Morifat questioned the timing of the execution of warrant which was issued by the Court in 1993 against his brother under Criminal Amendment Act 1983. He said the newspaper editor was declared as proclaimed offender and an absconder in the case.
“The police encircled our house and arrested him last night. Qadri has been attending office on a daily basis and even has passport, which needs security clearance before issuance,” Morifat said.
He said that Sofi, one of the accused in the case, had been the Member Legislative Council (MLC) twice in the state.
“None of the eight persons accused in the case were arrested during these years. Why only one person was arrested and not other three,” he said.
On Tuesday Qadri’s family, through their advocates, approached Chief Judical magistrate Srinagar with a plea, seeking his bail and withdrawal of criminal proceedings.
One of the defence lawyers, Syed Riyaz Khawar, apprised the court that the police didn’t make any effort to arrest Qadri during these years and he was not an absconder.
Khawar said the court was informed that police had not issued a look out notice of Qadri if he was an absconder.
“The police had filed the charge sheet without the arrest of accused on the ground that that they were absconders,” he said adding that the court was also informed that Qadri availed passport after verification of police.
After hearing the arguments from prosecution and defence, the court granted bail to the editor on bond of rupees 20,000.
Khawar said the court asked police to explain their position on the next date of hearing on 31 July.
“The SHO/investigating officer of the case was directed to be present before the court along with the case dairy. Besides explain its position in the case,” he said.
A number of the media organizations Tuesday condemned the arrest of the editor of prominent Urdu daily, Ghulam Jeelani Qadri, in an overnight raid.
The Jammu and Kashmir Editors Forum strongly condemned the arrest of Afaaq editor Ghulam Jeelani Qadri.
“There is no justification for police in arresting a person in three decades old case. Unfortunately, police had declared him absconder while he used to be present in office and coming out with daily newspaper,” the JKEF spokesman said.
The Kashmir Editors Guild (KEG) denounced what it termed was a shocking raid on the residence of its senior member, Jeelani Qadri.
Qadri, 62, a hypertensive, and was arrested despite having spent 35 years in public life.
Police invoked a 1990 case registered against eight journalists and editors. Of the eight “accused’, two veterans are no more – Sofi Ghulam Mohammad of ‘Srinagar Times’ and Ghulam Mohammad Aarif of ‘Daily Hamdard’.
“It is still not known why Qadri was singled out for allegedly defying the due process of law in a case he is not aware about. Qadri said he does not know how and why he was declared a proclaimed offender. The case is curious because the same police station verified and attested the antecedents of the editor for issuance of the passport twice in last 30 years,” a statement issued here by the KEG said.
KEG regretted the way a senior editor was declared proclaimed “offender in books and finally arrested him during the dead of the night. “
The Kashmir Workers Journalists Association (KWJA) and Kashmir Journalists Association (KJA) also strongly condemned the arrest of Qadri.
They termed the arrest of Qadri in 28-year-old case as an attack on press freedom in Jammu and Kashmir.
“The arrest has come at a time when the press freedom is under severe and sustained attack in the Valley,” they said.
“We appeal Governor Satya Pal Malik to intervene so that the senior editor is set free.”
The Kashmir Union of Working Journalists also condemned the arrest.
It said the arrest was aimed at muzzling the voice of local press.
"Qadri was attending office on daily basis and there was absolutely no need for carrying out a midnight raid at his residence. The working journalists here are wondering about the timing of execution of the warrant which has been issued 26 years ago. We demand immediate release of the editor and a probe into the midnight arrest,” it said.