India: Kashmiri Leader Yasin Malik Gets Life Imprisonment

A Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced separatist leader and Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chief Yasin Malik, 56, to life imprisonment a week after he pleaded guilty and was convicted of terror funding, spreading terrorism, and secessionist activities in the Valley in 2017.

Malik faced charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and Indian Penal Code sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 124-A (sedition). Malik on May 10 pleaded guilty to all charges after they were framed in March. He told the court he would not challenge any of the charges.

The case against Yasin Malik pertained to the Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Lashkar-e-Taiba chief Hafiz Saeed and other separatist leaders’ conspiracy to raise, receive and collect funds domestically and from abroad for the separatist and terrorist activities in Jammu and Kashmir.

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The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said its probe into the case established Malik was involved in terror activities and issued calls for protests, roadblocks, and other disruptive activities to push the society into chaos and lawlessness. In 2017, NIA registered the case and has since filed a charge sheet against over a dozen people.

The trial against the remaining accused in the case will continue as they have pleaded not guilty. Saeed and Hizbul Mujahideen chief Syed Salahuddin have been declared proclaimed offenders in the case.

Malik worked as Salahuddin’s polling agent in the 1987 elections in Jammu and Kashmir. Allegations of fraud that marred the polls have been blamed among the reasons for sparking insurgency in the region. JKLF and Hizbul Mujahideen spearheaded insurgency in the Valley in the late 1980s. JKLF renounced violence in the mid-1990s and Malik spent years in prison. Malik, who has undergone the aortic valve replacement, suffers from multiple ailments. He was left deaf in one ear and partially paralysed after he jumped from a fifth-floor window to escape capture in 1990.

Special judge Praveen Singh last week noted that sufficient time was provided to Malik to consider his plea. Malik was also granted an opportunity to have legal advice to make an informed choice. The court asked Malik if he wanted to re-think his plea. Malik responded he had taken a well-thought decision. It noted that amicus curiae Akhand Pratap Singh met Malik twice in the jail and explained to him the consequences of his decision and still, the separatist leader stood by his decision to plead guilty.

The court said Singh was directed to visit Malik in jail and to have a consultation so that the separatist could be made aware of the maximum punishment which could be awarded to him if he entered a guilty plea. Singh was appointed as the amicus curiae since Malik did not have a lawyer and argued his case.