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UN experts urge India to release rights activist in Kashmir

October 19, 2016

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — A group of United Nations experts urged the Indian government on Wednesday to immediately release human rights activist Khurram Parvez, who was arrested last month in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir under a controversial security law.

The U.N. experts said in a statement issued in Geneva that they have received allegations that the law is often used to target human rights defenders. Parvez is the coordinator of the Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society and chairman of the Philippine-based Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances.

Indian authorities charged Parvez under the Public Safety Act, which allows detentions of up to six months without trial.

“His continued detention following his arrest just a few days before his participation in the U.N. Human Rights Council suggests a deliberate attempt to obstruct his legitimate human rights activism,” said the statement, issued by the U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and several U.N. special rapporteurs.

Prior to Parvez’s arrest last month, immigration officials at New Delhi’s international airport barred him from boarding a plane to Geneva without offering any official explanation, although he had a valid visa and a letter of invitation to participate in a session of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

He was arrested by police after he returned home in Kashmir’s main city of Srinagar to prevent him from “causing a breach of peace.” A local court ordered his release, but police immediately rearrested him at the prison gate and charged under the Public Safety Act.

His detention comes amid the largest protests against Indian rule in Kashmir in recent years, sparked by the July 8 killing of a popular rebel commander by Indian soldiers. The protests, and a sweeping military crackdown, have all but paralyzed life in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

The disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both. Most people in the Indian-controlled portion favor independence or a merger with Pakistan.

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