Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan has been granted bail by the Lucknow High Court in a money laundering case. Kappan had been in jail for over two years and was first arrested on terror charges in October 2020 while he was on his way to Uttar Pradesh to report on the horrific Hathras gangrape case, when a 19-year-old Dalit girl was brutally raped and murdered.
The police claimed he had links with now-banned outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) and was plotting a conspiracy to incite violence in the state.
Multiplicity of cases against Kappan
Kappan was subsequently charged under the draconian Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, or the “anti-terror law” and has remained imprisoned for over two years. While the apex court granted him bail on these charges in September, a separate money laundering case was pressed against him by the Enforcement Directorate, which ensured his prolonged detention.
Earlier this month, a Lucknow court had framed charges against him and six others under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA), which meant the trial could finally begin. The other accused are KA Rauf Sherif, Atikur Rahman, Masud Ahmad, Mohammad Alam, Abdul Razzak and Ashraf Khadir.
Kappan, along with three of the co-accused — Atikur Rehman, Mohammad Alam and Masud Ahmad — were napped by the UP police in Mathura. Kappan's arrest became a hotly debated issue, and journalists and activists had welcomed the Supreme Court verdict granting him bail, while claiming that he was a "soft target" for the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh for being a Muslim.
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Hathras gangrape case
In Hathras, Kappan was covering the Hathras gangrape where a Dalit woman had been brutally gangraped on September 14, 2020. She was secretly cremated in the middle of the night in her village, sparking protests and widespread condemnation of the Yogi Adityanath-led UP government.