Civil society representatives came together under the aegis of ANHAD (Act Now for Harmony And Democracy) here on Saturday to condemn the arrest of freelance journalist Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi by the Delhi Police for alleged involvement in the Israeli diplomat assassination attempt this past month.

Alleging that the arrest was made under pressure from Israel and the United States to name and implicate Iran in the case, Manisha Sethi, president of the Jamia Teachers' Solidarity Association, said strange stories were being planted in the media and demanded Mr. Kazmi's immediate release on bail.

Ms. Sethi expressed shock over the reports that Israeli intelligence officials were coming to India to interrogate Mr. Kazmi.

Shabnam Hashmi of ANHAD alleged that Mr. Kazmi was also being targeted because he was a Muslim.

A statement issued on the occasion said: “Has Mr. Kazmi been picked up on tips provided by Israeli agencies? How credible can these inputs be, given Israel's clear intent to condemn and implicate Iran as the source of the attack?”

Senior journalist Seema Mustafa accused the government agencies of changing their position on the role of Iran in the Israeli Embassy car blast case. She said both in the on-record and off-record briefings they initially said Iran had no role. “Then what made them change their position?” she asked.

Ms. Mustafa said an atmosphere had been created wherein independent political views, thinking and writing were being stifled by the state. “This [the arrest of Mr. Kazmi] shows that if you hold views different from that of the government, you can be arrested,” she said, criticising a section of the media for publishing stories “planted” by the police through unnamed sources.

Eminent lawyer N.D. Pancholi said in most of the cases handled by the Special Cell evidence was fabricated. “The Special Cell in the court argued that it is a case of international terrorism. If so, why was the case not probed by agencies like the National Investigation Agency or the Central Bureau of Investigation?” he asked.

Reading out excerpts from a statement issued by the International Federation of Journalists, senior journalist Sukumar Muralidharan said: “With all respect for the legal process in India, the IFJ is concerned that Kazmi may have been identified for arrest based on his political views, rather than solid evidence. All reports available so far indicate that Kazmi is a sound professional who did not deviate from his commitment to a journalistic code of ethics, while not hesitating to express his well-considered views when required. We call on the authorities in Delhi to uphold the presumption of innocence, and provide a full explanation of the grounds on which Kazmi has been arrested and ensure that he is given all opportunities to clear his name.”

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