March 29, 2012
Mr. Prabhu Dayal
Consul General of India
Consulate General of India
New York, NY 10065
Re:INDIA: Immediately release journalist Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi
Dear Mr. Prabhu Dayal ,
I am writing to express my outrage over the recent arrest and detention of Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, a well-respected journalist, by Indian police.
Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi has been a freelance journalist for almost thirty years, accredited by the Press Information Bureau (PIB). 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 13 February, 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 15 February, Mohammad 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 6 March, Mohammad 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 7 March, Mohammad’s son Shauzab was intimidated into signing an arrest ‘memo’, confirming the arrest of his father. Mohammad has now been accused of masterminding the bomb attack on 13 February, which targeted the wife of the Israeli ambassador in Delhi.
I am one of the many who believe that the allegations against Mohammad are politically motivated. It is clear that Mohammad Kazmi – whose journalistic and professional records are impeccable – has been targeted due to his affiliation with an Iranian news agency.
Worryingly, Mohammad 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 Mohammad 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.
I request that as Indian High Commissioner you address the genuine concern that Mohammad Kazmi is being targeted because of his work with an Iranian news agency. The Delhi police force must ensure that Mohammad Kazmi’s lawyer is permitted to monitor him during interrogation in order to allay fears that he is being threatened by his interrogators. Unless any charge is brought to Mohammad Kazmi, he must be released immediately from police custody.
I look forward to you reply.
William Nicholas Gomes