Prominent Kashmiri journalist Fahad Shah has been released from detention after more than 600 days, following a court decision to grant him bail due to “insufficient evidence” for terrorism charges. At 34 years old, Shah regained his freedom from Kot Bhalwal Jail in Jammu, as officially confirmed by a source speaking to Al Jazeera.

As the proprietor and editor of the independent news platform Kashmir Walla, which was earlier banned by the Indian government without specific reasons, Shah faced accusations of “glorifying terrorism” and “spreading fake news.” These allegations were linked to the publication of an article by Abdul Aala Fazili, a pharmacy student at the University of Kashmir, addressing the Indian “occupation” and advocating for the region’s autonomy. Fazili, arrested alongside Shah, remains in custody.

In its recent bail ruling, the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh declared that the newly established Special Investigation Agency (SIA) lacked adequate evidence under the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) to substantiate the charges against Shah. The UAPA, frequently criticized by numerous human rights organizations, is commonly employed by India’s Hindu nationalist government to target political opponents, activists, and dissidents.

While acknowledging the challenge of securing bail under the UAPA, the court stressed that Shah posed no “clear and present danger” to society if released. It dismissed specific charges, including “abetting terrorism, waging war against the country, and promoting enmity” under the UAPA, asserting that the published opinion piece advocating for the secession of Indian-administered Kashmir did not incite violence or armed insurrection against the state.

Despite his release, Shah will face ongoing legal proceedings under other sections of the UAPA and the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, pertaining to the receipt of illegal funds.

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