ISLAMABAD: The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) has expressed its “deep concern” over the pronouncement of life sentence for prominent Kashmiri leader Yasin Malik, it said on Friday, who had been leading a struggle for the freedom of Indian-controlled Kashmir for decades.
Malik, 56, is the head of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF), one of the first armed separatist groups in the Indian-controlled region, that supported an independent and united Kashmir. The group gave up armed rebellion in 1994.
India’s National Investigation Agency arrested Malik in April 2019. The agency demanded death penalty for him on charges of receiving funds from Pakistan to “carry out terrorist activities and stone-pelting during the Kashmir unrest,” but a New Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced him to life in prison.
“The General Secretariat of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) expresses it deep concern over the pronouncement of life sentence for one of the most prominent Kashmiri leaders, Mr. Yasin Malik, who has been leading a peaceful freedom struggle for many decades,” the OIC said on Twitter.
“Reiterating its solidarity with the people of Jammu and Kashmir, the OIC General Secretariat urges the international community to ensure that the legitimate struggle of the Kashmiris for the realization of their rights must not be equated with terrorism.”
Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan since their independence from British rule in 1947. Both countries claim the region in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over the disputed territory.
The OIC General Secretariat called on the Indian government to “release all Kashmiri leaders unfairly incarcerated, halt forthwith the gross and systematic persecution of Kashmiris in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK).”
It asked New Delhi to respect the right of the Kashmiri people to determine their own future through a “free and impartial plebiscite,” as enshrined in the relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions.
On Wednesday, Pakistan Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif condemned the verdict, calling it “a black day for Indian democracy & its justice system.”
“India can imprison Yasin Malik physically but it can never imprison idea of freedom he symbolizes,” he tweeted.