Political Prisoners Kept With Criminals, Face Biased Courts: HCBA

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SRINAGAR: The High Court Bar Association (HCBA) today said that political detainees have been kept together with common criminals and other under-trials in Jammu jails which, according to it, did not produce inmates for hearings and denied them the right to discharge their religious obligations.

In a report issued after a tour of jails in the Jammu region, the Bar Association also said that the hearings of the detainees were not impartial due to lack of proper legal aid and the “one-sided” approach of the courts.

A five-member HCBA team, comprising of vice-president Ajaz Bedar, general secretary Muhammad Ashraf Bhat, Bilal Ahmad Wani, former general secretary Ghulam Nabi Shaheen, and Hamid Shafi had undertaken a tour of a number of prisons in the region since January 12, the Bar said.

“Detainees in the District Jail in Poonch strongly complained of lack of medical facilities, and said that they were not being produced in courts for hearings in time,” the Bar said. “Jail authorities too admitted that doctors were not available there round-the-clock.”

“According to official figures, the Poonch Jail has 134 inmates, 116 of whom are under-trails.  Among the under-trails, 21 are linked to the resistance struggle,” it said.

“Further, five detainees, two of them women, have been imprisoned under precautionary measures,” it said.

“The Poonch Jail also has inmates belonging to Pak-administered-Kashmir, but jail authorities did not allow us to meet them,” it said.

“The District Jail in Rajouri has 104 inmates, 97 of whom are under-trials, including 7 resistance activists,” he said.

“The Kot Bhalwal Jail has 456 detainees, 142 of whom have been sentenced and 162 under-trials. In addition, the jail has 15 political detainees, and 20 others accused of militant activities,” it said.

“Further, the jail has 68 foreign nationals, 45 of whom have been charged under the PSA,” it said. “Six of them are charged with militant activities, and 12 in other cases,” it said.

“The Kot Bhalwal is a large complex which requires at least three specialists for medical care, but detainees face lack of medical facilities,” it said.

“Detainees here have said that they are not being produced in courts for hearings, and that they were facing mental disorders and tension,” it said.

“At the district Jail in Kathua, the jail superintendent Harish Kotwal did not allow us to undertake the tour, but after sustained efforts by bar vice president Ajaz Bedar, we were allowed entry,” it said.

“Jail authorities said that the prison had only 8 Kashmiri detainees,” it said.

“In the jail, The Bar team also met the vice chief of the Muslim League, Masarat Alam Bhat who has been charged with seven successive PSA cases over the past two years,” he said.

“The conditions in the jails are similar to those in Poonch, with lack of medical facilities and inmates not being produced for hearing,” it said.

“The Hira Nagar Jail has 60 detainees, 52 of whom are under-trials,” it said. “It has 11 foreigners among its under-trials, eight of whom are charged under the PSA,” it said.

“According to official figures, the Amphalla Jail has 511 detainees, 375 of whom are under-trials. It has 57 foreign inmates, and 22 detainees charged under the PSA,” it said.

“The jail also has several detainees linked to the resistance movement,” it said.

“In Udhampur Jail, there are 11 detainees linked to the resistance struggle, according to official figures,” it said.

“Authorities here do not allow Muslim inmates to offer namaz,” it said. 

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