January 2003 News

Court Releases A Relieved Gilani After 7 Months

13 January 2003
The Asian Age

New Delhi: Journalist Ifthikar Gilani looked visibly relaxed on Monday when he was brought to a city court to be discharged from the case. His wife Aneesha too could not hide her happiness, which 'had come to her after a long wait of seven months.' Mr Gilani had been arrested in July 2002 under the Official Secrets Act. Following the governmentís submission in the court of chief metropolitan magistrate Sangita Dhingra Sehgal that the prosecution will not be able to produce sufficient evidence because of changed circumstances, the court discharged Mr Gilani in the 'public interest.' Mr Gilani was released from Tihar jail late on Monday night. Earlier, soon after being discharged, the Kashmir Times journalist came out of the court with a sense of pride as media personnel jostled about to get comments from a pale-looking Ifthikar Gilani. The scars of the humiliation and trauma he underwent in the last seven months in Tihar jail were clearly visible as he spoke to the media: 'I am happy, this all that I can say right now.' On being prodded by the media, he said he already knew that he would be released in the case, which he said was fabricated by some vested interests in the Intelligence Bureau. 'I thank all my well-wishers who gave me the strength to keep my sanity in the hell of Tihar jail, from which I have emerged to return to freedom.' Asked whether he would seek compensation for a false case against him, he said nothing in this world could compensate the freedom of an individual. 'The last seven months have been an unique example and the greatest compensation is the freedom I got.' Mr Gilani said it was a lesson for everyone and also for those journalists who believed the prosecutorís theory without checking the facts. Mr Gilani, whose government accreditation was withdrawn after his arrest, said he did not know whether he would go to Srinagar or continue to work in Delhi. Blaming the IB for playing a dirty game against him with the help of certain bureaucrats, Mr Gilani said he was thankful that the government saw through the game and withdrew the case. Saying his honour has been restored, he added that the withdrawal of the case has removed the stigma of being called a 'traitor,' which agonised him, his family and friends for seven months. 'I was really agonised that my integrity, honesty and patriotism were questioned and I was dubbed an anti-national, ignoring my track record as a nationalist.' Warning journalists that they too could become victims of false cases, he said, 'This is the time for all right-thinking persons, journalists and politicians to reflect on drastically amending the OSA, a British legacy that can be misused and abused by vested elements in the government to lock up and harass honest citizens. In the era of transparency that India has entered with the Freedom of Information Act, there should be no place for such a draconian law.' He demanded that the government identify and fix responsibility on certain IB officials, who even tried to implicate him in the murder of Hurriyat leader Abdul Ghani Lone and continuously 'misled' the political leadership to keep him in jail. Lamenting that the ordeal had left a devastating scar on his physical and mental health, Mr Gilani said he wished 'no journalist and, for that matter, no citizen has to undergo the kind of trauma I have suffered at the hands of the arms of the government.' A visibly happy Aneesha said, 'I am grateful to the Almighty, who bestowed wisdom on the government to withdraw the case.' She also thanked all the journalists and everyone else who stood by the family.


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