Harassment and arbitrary arrests of human rights defenders for tirelessly seeking truth and justice have become alarmingly commonplace in India, Amnesty India said on Tuesday, demanding immediate and unconditional release of fact-checking website Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair.
Zubair was arrested by the Delhi Police on Monday night for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity on Twitter.
Aakar Patel, chair of board for Amnesty International India, said the Indian authorities are targeting Zubair for his crucial work to combat the rise in fake news and disinformation and call out discrimination against minorities.
“The arrest of Mohammed Zubair shows the danger facing human rights defenders in India has reached a crisis point,” Patel said in a statement.
“The fact that he was not provided a copy of the First Information Report (FIR) and was detained incommunicado during the initial hours following his arrest shows just how brazen the Indian authorities have become.
“Harassment, intimidation, unlawful and arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment of human rights defenders for tirelessly seeking truth and justice has become alarmingly commonplace in India,” he said.
Calling on the Delhi Police to immediately and unconditionally release Zubair and end its “relentless harassment” of journalists, human rights defenders and activists, Patel said the Alt News co-founder’s arrest is a clear violation of the right to freedom of expression, abuse of power by the authorities and sends a message that dissent is not tolerated in the country.
Zubair was arrested in connection with one of his recent tweets that had a questionable image with the purpose of deliberately insulting the god of a particular religion, according to police.
Alt News co-founder Pratik Sinha alleged that the police did not any prior notice to Zubair, even though it is mandatory for the sections under which he has been arrested.