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Amnesty International Calls on Jammu and Kashmir Authorities to Release or Charge Teenage Protester
WASHINGTON - The Jammu and Kashmir authorities must immediately release or charge a teenage anti-government protester who was rearrested this week after spending three months in administrative detention, Amnesty International said.
Murtaza Manzoor, 17, was briefly released from prison on Wednesday after the High Court found that his administrative detention was unlawful. He was immediately rearrested by police.
Amnesty International said it is likely that a repeat administrative detention order for Murtaza Manzoor will be passed, allowing police to detain him without charge or trial for up to two years.
"The police in Jammu and Kashmir are playing a game with the judiciary. Courts order a person's release only for the police to wait outside prison to re-arrest them. This farce should stop," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific director.
"Murtaza Manzoor must be released immediately, unless he is charged with a recognizable criminal offense," said Zarifi. "If so, he should be remanded in custody by an independent court and his rights as a child should be recognized. The authorities must not order his repeat administrative detention."
Although he is 17 years old Murtaza Manzoor is being treated as an adult because the laws of Jammu and Kashmir define boys above the age of 16 as adults. This contravenes both Indian law and the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Chief Minister of Jammu and Kashmir has said that the laws will be amended to make them consistent with international law and standards.
"We can clearly see the need to amend the law in Jammu and Kashmir because teenage boys are held in jails with no special facilities for juveniles," said Zarifi.
Police arrested Murtaza Manzoor on January 21 in the state capital Srinagar. He was accused of attempted murder, assault and rioting, based on allegations that he led a June 2010 protest against the Indian government that turned violent and resulted in protesters rioting and pelting police with stones.
On February 8, fearing that Manzoor would be released on bail, police placed him in administrative detention under the highly problematic Jammu and Kashmir Public Safety Act (PSA), which allows for up to two years’ detention without charge or trial.
On May 13 the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir found Murtaza Manzoor's detention to be unlawful and ordered his release.
On May 18, instead of being released to his father who was waiting outside the Kot Bhalwal Jail, Murtaza Manzoor was escorted from the prison by four policemen of a specialist counter-insurgency team and taken to the Joint Interrogation Center at Jammu.
Police told his father that Murtaza Manzoor would be kept at the interrogation center for a few days before being handed over to a police station in Srinagar.
"Murtaza’s case illustrates the 'revolving door' nature of detentions widespread in PSA cases, as documented in Amnesty International’s recent report, A Lawless Law,” said Zarifi.
Murtaza Manzoor's family was not given any information on the alleged offenses for which he is being held. Amnesty International said it believes his detention may be unlawful.
At least 322 people are reported to have been detained without trial under the provisions of the Public Safety Act in Jammu and Kashmir from January to September 2010 alone.
A number of them, including children, have been detained on similar grounds of stone pelting and rioting during various protests against the Indian government throughout the summer of 2010.
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