Arrested journalist Kazmi innocent, says family

New Delhi: Family and friends of freelance journalist Syed Mohammed Kazmi, who was arrested by Delhi police in connection with the bombing of an Israeli diplomat`s car, today rallied behind him saying he was "innocent" and alleging that he was being "mentally tortured" in custody.

The Delhi Union of Journalists (DUJ) today held a press conference here along with Kazmi`s two sons and demanded that a fair and transparent investigation be conducted into the case.

"My father is innocent. He has not done any illegal activity. He is a national hero..he covered the Iraq war for the country. The police is mentally torturing my father," Kazmi`s son Shauzab said at a conference where he was flanked by his father`s friends and long-time professional associates.

Shauzab (30) also alleged that the Special Cell of Delhi Police is now calling up their relatives for investigation and that he and his father were "forced" to sign on `arrest memos` by the police on the day of his arrest.

Claiming that the February 13 bombing in the heart of the capital was a case of "international terrorism", Delhi Police had arrested 50-year-old Kazmi on March 7 alleging that he helped the bomber conduct reconnaissance of the Israeli embassy.

"He has been working with the Iranian news agency for a long time. He hardly showed any signs of jingoism, had impeccable credentials and had a reputation of an upright objective journalist with definite views," DUJ General Secretary S K Pande said.

Pande said the Union, while expressing solidarity with Kazmi and his family, has written to the Delhi police Commissioner seeking his release on bail as he is cooperating with investigators and that a charge sheet should immediately be filed in the case.

Senior journalist Saeed Naqvi, who is also a long-time friend of Kazmi, said the arrested journalist was his very "honoured and honest" friend and that his professional association with Iran and West Asia should not be held against him.

"He (Kazmi) had the advantage of knowing a number of languages..including those spoken in West Asia. He had just been to Syria with a delegation…this should not be held against him," Naqvi said.

"Beyond a point I don`t know…but for me he was a dear and valued colleague," he said.
He was picked up from outside India Islamic Centre (IIC) on Lodhi road and taken to his house in the night by the police. Kazmi`s family only got to know of his arrest at 0930 in the night, Naqvi alleged.

The DUJ also said that Kazmi was working with the state-run Doordarshan Urdu channel and possessed a Press Information Bureau (PIB) card which is issued after proper verification of journalists.

"We oppose his detention and this is an instance of journalist bashing. We have witnessed many such instances, including in Jammu and Kashmir, where journalists were treated similarly," DUJ general Secretary Pande said.

Shauzab, who has just finished his MBA, was accompanied by his younger brother as he defended his father.

"No Iranian has ever stayed at our home…even the scooty which the police has taken…has been lying unused at our house for two years. My uncle from Meerut used it earlier when he used to go to AIIMS for his treatment," he said.

"I met my father yesterday and they (police) are torturing him mentally as 8-10 officers sit to question him and ask him questions," Shauzab claimed as tears rolled down his eyes.

Shauzab said his father was "wrongly" charged under the stringent provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and that his father`s laptop, desktop computer, passport and other documents have been seized by the police.

Meanwhile, during the conference, a minor scuffle broke out between a group of journalists and an individual who was leaving the venue.

Some journalists demanded to know from the person if he was a "policeman" and stopped him for sometime before he wriggled out and left the venue – Press Club at Raisina road here.