Denial bail to student activist Umar Khalid huge blow to right to freedom of expression: Amnesty International
London: Amnesty International has said that former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) leader and student activist Umar Khalid is being denied bail simply for peacefully voicing his dissent against the discriminatory Citizenship (Amendment) Act.
Umar Khalid is facing charges under the draconian Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA).
Amnesty International India’s Chair of Board, Aakar Patel, in a statement said, “The repeated denial of bail to Umar Khalid is a huge blow to everyone exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in the country. Umar’s continued detention for over 18 months comes against the backdrop of a rapidly shrinking space for critical voices and sets a chilling precedent for anyone whose views the authorities disagree with.”
“Khalid’s continued detention under UAPA runs absolutely counter to the international human rights law and standards. Amnesty International India calls on the Indian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release Khalid and all other human rights defenders arbitrarily detained solely for expressing their opposition and peacefully protesting against the CAA.”
Earlier, a Delhi Court denied bail to student activist Umar Khalid in connection with a case alleging a larger conspiracy into the February 2020 Delhi riots.
Khalid was arrested on 13 September 2020. He was charged with allegedly damaging public property, committing unlawful activities, raising funds for terrorist acts, and conspiring to defame the Indian government.
In 2021, he was granted bail in other criminal cases but continued to be imprisoned due to charges under the Unlawful Prevention (Activities) Act (UAPA) – India’s draconian anti-terror law which is characterized by slow investigative processes and stringent bail provisions.
Indian government routinely uses UAPA to intimidate and harass those who are critical of the authorities. It is a tool that effectively criminalizes peaceful dissent by ensuring human rights defenders and other critical voices face many years behind bars. Web Desk