Police hold Kashmiri separatist leader over 'money from Pakistan'

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The Independent Online

The leader of a Kashmiri separatist group was arrested yesterday, a day after Indian police detained a woman with $100,000 (£70,000) in cash allegedly intended for him.

More than 100 officers surrounded the office of an umbrella group of Kashmiri political and religious leaders where Yasin Malik, the leader of the Jammu-Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), was holding a news conference. The JKLF is a former militant group that has laid down its arms and become a political party.

Police fired tear gas at about 60 of Mr Malik's supporters in Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir, when they tried to prevent him being taken away in a van. Protests were also reported near Mr Malik's home in the city, forcing shops to shut.

K Rajendra Kumar, an inspector general of police, said Mr Malik had been arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance and the Foreign Exchange Movement Act.

It was not immediately clear what specific charges Mr Malik would face. However, he could be accused of intending to receive money illegally brought into the country to fund anti- Indian activity. The $100,000 was not declared at the border when it was brought in, officials said. Mr Malik denied the money was intended for him.

More than a dozen militant groups have been fighting since 1989 for Kashmir's independence or its merger with Islamic Pakistan. Hindu India and Pakistan have fought two wars over the mainly Muslim Himalayan province.

Ashok Suri, an inspector general of police, said a woman, identified only as Shazia, had told investigators she had been given the cash in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu, by Altaf Qadri, a Kashmiri leader based in Pakistani-held Kashmir.

She said Mr Qadri had told her to deliver the cash to Mr Malik. Shazia was arrested on Sunday after a random police search on the road leading to Kashmir at Kud, about 60 miles north of Jammu, winter capital of the Himalayan state.

Mr Malik said before his arrest that he would quit the separatist movement if it was proved that the money was being sent to him from Pakistani-administered Kashmir.

"The government is looking for reasons for our arrest," he said. "But I was not expecting they would resort to such a cheap way." Mr Malik insisted he had had nothing to do with the money. "They consider me an impediment in coming state legislature elections," he said, adding that his party had announced a boycott of the elections in September.

The Indian government is trying to persuade the All Parties Hurriyat Conference, a conglomerate of more than two dozen political and religious groups in Kashmir, to participate in the elections.

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