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Mufti orders release of political prisoners

Separatist leader Masarat Alam is first to be freed

Senior separatist leader Masarat Alam was released from prison on Saturday just days after Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Mufti Mohammad Sayeed directed the police to release political prisoners against whom no criminal charges had been registered.

Sources in the Shaheed Ganj police station said Mr. Alam was released late on Saturday night.

Earlier in the day, police sources had confirmed that he had been moved from the Baramulla prison to a police station in Srinagar.

Head of the Muslim League in the State, Mr Alam was among the main organisers of pro-Azadi protests in the Valley in 2010. He was arrested along with several other leaders after those protests and remained one of the few senior leaders still behind bars.

Arrested under the Public Safety Act (PSA) — a preventive detention law in J&K which gives a Deputy Commissioner the authority to take anyone in his district into preventive custody for up to two years without trial if he feels the person poses a threat to the security of the State — Mr. Alam has been in various prisons for more than four years now.

Police sources said since 2010, more than six consecutive PSA charges had been slapped on him.

Inspector-General of Police A.G. Mir told The Hindu: “Unlike in the past, Mr. Alam will not be rearrested after this release.” The process of releasing political prisoners is seen as an attempt by the new Chief Minister to send out a positive signal to the people of the Valley.

BJP furious

Reacting strongly to the release of Masarat Alam, the BJP said the decision was anti-national, unacceptable and detrimental to the coalition.

“This is not a decision of the coalition government, nor is it in line with the common minimum programme. It is a hidden agenda of Mufti, and we strongly oppose it,” Ashok Koul, BJP State general secretary, told The Hindu . “We protested against the decision on the streets of Jammu today, and we will protest again on the streets and directly with the Peoples Democratic Party. This way, the coalition cannot go ahead.”

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