RSF denounces arrest of Nakkheeran editor
RSF denounces the decision by Indian police to arrest RR Gopal, editor of Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, and this "to hide their inability to find Veerappan, one of Indias most notorious bandits"
From Paul Michaud (RSF)
PARIS, April 15 - Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), the French-based international journalists rights organisation, today denounced the arrest of R. R. Gopal, editor of the biweekly Tamil magazine Nakkheeran, for supposed "illegal possession of firearms" and "sedition," characterising it "an attempt by police to hide their inability to find Veerappan, one of Indias most notorious bandits."
RSF said that Gopal and other journalists in the southeastern state of Tamil Nadu were being transformed into scapegoats, and called on the states chief minister, Selvi J. Jayalalithaa, to free him at once and drop the charges against him.
His arrest on April 11 was the latest twist in a long-standing effort to intimidate Gopal and his journalists for their reporting on Veerappan and his gang, whom security forces have been attempting to capture the past several years. Nakkheeran journalist Siva Subramanian has been in prison in neighbouring Karnataka state since November 2001 accused of being in league with the bandits.
Plainclothes police arrested Gopal in the town of Chennai on April 11 as he was leaving his office. They said they found a gun on him as well as leaflets put out by the banned separatist Tamil Nadu Liberation Army. He was interrogated throughout the night, dozens of journalists were barred from the police building and police refused to speak to them. The next day, a court ordered him to be held at the towns main prison until April 25.
At the same time, two opposition MPs were arrested for allegedly stealing with Gopal a ransom put together in 2000 to win the release of a film star Veerappan had kidnapped. The accusations were recently repeated in a book by a former Tamil Nadu police chief.
Gopal, who is being prosecuted in half a dozen cases, has been frequently interrogated by police. A warrant for his arrest was issued in February in connected with his supposed involvement in two killings attributed to Veerappan. Last month, the Chennai High Court granted him conditional bail. Nakkheeran notably exposed scandals during chief minister Jayalalithas first government in the early 1990s.
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