The Indian police has recently arrested Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, a well-respected journalist.
Kazmi has been a freelance journalist for almost 30 years, accredited by the Press Information Bureau. Based in Delhi, he has covered conflicts such as the Iran-Iraq war and the invasion of Iraq by US-led coalition forces for media outlets such as IRNA, IRIB, Doordarshan and BBC.
In 1993 he launched his own news agency dedicated to coverage of the Middle-East, called Media Star News and Features. He is a familiar face in the Indian media, having covered many international summits and proceedings in Parliament. His work entails frequent travel to countries such as Iran, Iraq and Syria.
On February 13, a bomb blast in New Delhi injured the wife of an Israeli diplomat. With little evidence, Israeli officials immediately blamed Iran and the Lebanese group Hizbullah for the bomb blast, and attempted to link it to a foiled attack in Tbilisi, Georgia.
On February 15, Kazmi appeared on the political discussion programme Primetime on NDTV. He defended Iran’s right to nuclear enrichment, and stated that from his interactions in Iran with lawmakers and MPs he did not believe Iran seeks to develop a nuclear weapon.
On March 6, Kazmi was taken from the Indian Islamic Centre at approximately 11:30AM. No arrest warrant was presented, and later that day his house was searched by five police officers – none whom produced a search warrant. On March 7, Kazmi’s son Shauzab was intimidated into signing an arrest ‘memo’, confirming the arrest of his father. Kazmi has now been accused of masterminding the bomb attack on February 13.
The allegations against Kazmi are politically motivated. It is clear that Kazmi has been targeted due to his affiliation with an Iranian news agency.
Worryingly, Kazmi has claimed that he has been threatened by plain-clothed interrogators to be handed over to Israeli intelligence for harsher interrogation. This raises serious questions regarding not only India’s standards of policing, but also India’s national sovereignty. These concerns must be addressed by the Indian government if it is to be viewed as able to protect its own citizens.
If Kazmi, a respected journalist who on one occasion met with Prime-Minister Manmohan Singh, can be intimidated and detained without charge – what does this say about freedoms under the world’s “largest” democracy?
India must not subordinate its judicial system to the political whims of Israel. Nor should Indian citizens be at the mercy of foreign intelligence services, or the agendas of external forces wishing to pursue their own interests.
William Nicholas Gomes