NGO-militancy funding case: Irfan Mehraj sent to 10-day NIA custody

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A court here on Wednesday granted the National Investigation Agency (NIA) 10 days’ custody of a person arrested by the agency from Srinagar in connection with an ongoing investigation into an NGO-militant funding case, reported Press Trust of India.

Irfan Mehraj, a resident of Srinagar, is the first accused arrested following investigations into the NGO-militant funding case registered in October 2020, the NIA said. He was a close associate of human rights activist Khurram Parvez and was working with his organisation, the Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Societies (JKCCS), it added.

Principal District and Sessions Judge Dharmesh Sharma allowed 10 days of custodial interrogation of Mehraj on the federal agency’s plea of 12 days of custody.

After his arrest on Monday, the agency brought the accused to the national capital on a transit remand. It alleged that investigations have revealed the JKCCS was funding militant activities and propagating a secessionist agenda in the Valley under the garb of protection of human rights.

The NIA is probing the involvement of some Kashmir-based NGOs, Trusts and societies in the funding of militancy-related activities.

The agency said some NGOs, both registered as well as unregistered, have been collecting funds domestically and abroad under the cover of doing charity and various welfare activities, including public health and education.

“But some of these organisations have developed links with proscribed terrorist outfits such as the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and Hizbul Mujahideen (HM),” NIA said.

Activist Parvez was arrested in November 2021 by the NIA and chargesheeted on May 13 next year, along with six others, for alleged anti-national activities, including collecting information regarding vital installations and deployment and movement of security forces, procuring official secret documents and passing the same to LeT handlers through encrypted communication channels for monetary consideration.

Editors Guild voices concern over arrest of Mehraj

The Editors Guild of India on Wednesday voiced “deep concern” over the arrest of Jammu and Kashmir-based journalist Irfan Mehraj and “excessive use” of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) against mediapersons.

It said earlier journalists Aasif Sultan, Sajad Gul and Fahad Shah too were arrested. “The space for media freedom has progressively eroded in Kashmir,” the Guild said in a statement issued here.

“Irfan Mehraj’s arrest continues a trend in Kashmir of security forces arresting journalists because of their critical reporting of the establishment,” it said.

Mehraj was arrested by the National Investigation Agency in connection with a militancy-funding case.

The Guild urged the administration to respect democratic values and stop the harassment of journalists in the name of national security. Mehraj had started his career as a journalist in 2015 and covered politics and human rights extensively, it said.

Mehraj has written for several publications about the situation in Kashmir following the abrogation of Article 370 and also runs an online publication called Wande Magazine, the Guild said. (PTI)

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