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AltNews Co-Founder Zubair Sent to 4-Day Police Custody; Cong, Left Condemn Arrest

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Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared on behalf of Zubair, argued the AltNews website co-founder was being “maliciously targeted” and that the entire case “borders on absurdity.”
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New Delhi: Zubair Mohammed, the co-founder of fact-checking website AltNews, who was arrested on Monday for a 2018 tweet, was sent to four-day police custody by a Delhi Court on Tuesday. He was called for interrogation in a different case on Monday but was arrested for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and promoting enmity through his tweet, after a complaint was filed by a Twitter handle called Hanuman Bhakt.

According to Indian Express, the police had sought five-day custody of Zubair. Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared on behalf of Zubair, argued that the AltNews website co-founder was being “maliciously targeted” and that the entire case “borders on absurdity.”

The prosecution, as per the report, argued that Zubair’s “deliberate act of outraging religious sentiments was on record” and therefore his police remand was required.

Zubair was produced before Chief Metropolitan Magistrate Snigdha Savaria after the expiration of his one-day police custody.

Meanwhile, there was outrage over Zubair’s arrest by individual, political parties and media organisations, such as the Editor’s Guild of India, Press Club of India, among others.

Coward Govt Sending Message to Those who Expose its Fake News: Cong

The Congress hit out at the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Tuesday over the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammad Zubair for allegedly hurting religious sentiments and said the "coward" government is sending out a message to those who expose its "fake news".

Congress spokesperson Supriya Shrinate said without getting into the legalities, the big message by the BJP-led Centre is that the perpetrators of hate speeches would get political patronage and will be out either on bail or otherwise, and people who report that will be behind bars.

She said those spreading hate are becoming leaders of BJP, while those speaking out against their hate are being put behind bars.

 The Congress leader said Zubair was bringing the truth to people and reporting hate speeches whenever such statements were made.

"He was busting your fake news racket. You may try and silence one person, but there are thousand others who will speak," she said.

Shrinate also appealed to large sections of the media to stand up for one of its own.

Former Congress chief Rahul Gandhi earlier said arresting one voice of truth will only give rise to a thousand more.

Gandhi alleged that every person exposing the BJP's hate and bigotry is a threat to the saffron party, while asserting that the truth will prevail.

"Every person exposing BJP's hate, bigotry and lies is a threat to them. Arresting one voice of truth will only give rise to a thousand more," he wrote on Twitter.

"Truth always triumphs over tyranny," the former Congress chief said, using the hashtag "#DaroMat.

Left Parties Demand Release; Slam Govt for Arresting Journalists

The Left parties on Tuesday hit out at the Union government over the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair, asking it how those who spread hate are free, and someone who exposes them is behind bars.

The parties have demanded his immediate release.

"Hate-mongers of the right are getting patronage from rulers. So-called fringe elements who brought disrepute to the country are being protected. 

"Young journalists like Mohammed Zubair, who are working to protect the scientific temper of the country are behind bars. Condemnable!" said CPI general secretary D Raja on Twitter.

"Release @zoo_bear immediately. The Modi government is insecure & threatened by anything that exposes the fake hate machine of misinformation," said CPI-Marxist general secretary Sitaram Yechury in a tweet.

Jamiat Calls it 'discriminatory action'

Prominent Muslim organisation Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind on Tuesday termed as "discriminatory" the arrest of Alt News co-founder Mohammed Zubair and demanded that the government take "fair action" in the matter respecting the country's reputation at the international level.

Jamiat president Maulana Mahmood Madani also wrote to Home Minister Amit Shah saying "the discriminatory nature" of the functioning of law enforcement agencies is condemnable.

"On one hand, people who openly deliver hate speeches and make genocide calls are roaming free, while on the other hand journalists who are tirelessly working in exposing such hate-mongers are being systematically harassed and intimidated," Madani said.

"There is no doubt that the people accused of hurting religious sentiments of other people's faith, their holy saints and holy books with the intention to cause communal disturbance must be dealt with firmly as per the provision of the law. However, there must not be any discrimination in dealing with such people on the basis of their particular faith," the Jamiat chief said.

In the case against Zubair, Madani alleged "discrimination and religious persecution".

"We solemnly appeal to you as the guardian of the law enforcement to kindly make sure that absolute equality and impartiality is exercised by the law enforcement agencies in dealing with the hate mongers irrespective of their faith," Madani said in his letter.

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