The Mumbai Press Club has demanded the immediate release of activist Teesta Setalvad, describing her arrest as a "travesty of justice".
In a statement issued last night, the press club said it was "unacceptable that a person who has been fighting for civil justice should be accused of fabricating evidence and misleading the Special Investigation Team".
Setalvad was arrested by the Ahmedabad police on June 25, a day after the Supreme Court upheld the clean chit given by a special investigation team to Narendra Modi over the 2002 Gujarat riots. Modi had been chief minister of the state at the time.
Setalvad was detained from her Mumbai residence and reportedly taken to Ahmedabad. She lodged a complaint with the Santa Cruz police station calling her arrest "illegal". The was filed under charges including forgery, fabricating false evidence, and criminal conspiracy.
Setalvad had backed Zakia Jafri, who had filed a petition challenging the SIT's clean chit to 64 people, including Modi. Jafri's husband, Congress MLA Ehsan Jafri, was among 68 people killed in Ahmedabad during the of February 28, 2002. Apart from Jafri, the other petitioner in the case was Citizens for Justice and Peace, a human rights group headed by Setalvad.
The press club's statement said Setalvad and others had "lent their voice to the victims of communal violence in 2002 and after" and have "now been made scapegoats in a chilling process of vendetta unleashed by the executive and judiciary".
It also said Setalvad had the "right to question the court orders": "Equally, the court has the right to weigh the evidence and come to its conclusions. However, because the apex court did not agree with the petitioners, it does not give the right to the executive to launch a witch hunt against those who had questioned the findings of the Special Investigation Team."
Yesterday, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Mary Lawlor, had over Setalvad's arrest, saying: "Teesta is a strong voice against hatred and discrimination. Defending human rights is not a crime. I call for her release and an end to persecution by the Indian state."
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