KBS Malhotra, deputy commissioner of Delhi’s cybercrime unit, said Mohamad Al Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, which exposes misinformation in Indian media, was arrested on Monday and returned to overnight custody in Police custody.
Malhotra said Zubair was arrested under two sections of the Indian Penal Code related to maintaining religious harmony.
Zubair often posts on Twitter criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for what he and other critics claim is a suppression of the rights of the country’s nearly 200 million Muslims.
Zubair’s lawyer, Kulpreet Kaur, said the journalist had been summoned for questioning in connection with a 2020 criminal investigation into his social media posts – from which he had previously been granted protection from arrest by the Delhi High Court. But when he responded to the summons, the police stopped him in a separate case, she said.
Kaur showed CNN a police complaint accusing Twitter user Zubair of insulting Hindus on the platform in 2018, in a post about renaming a hotel after a Hindu deity.
It accused the authorities of not following the correct procedures and not giving Zubair any notice.
Malhotra, the deputy commissioner, did not respond to CNN’s questions about whether police followed appropriate procedures during the arrest.
Among Zubair’s recent posts on social media are videos allegedly showing Hindu extremists giving hate speeches against Islam, a minority religion in India where nearly 80% of people are Hindu.
Zubair’s arrest angered politicians, journalists and news organizations who demanded his release.
Shashi Tharoor, a lawmaker from the opposition Indian Congress, said the arrest was an “assault on the truth”.
“Coffee trailblazer. Certified pop culture lover. Infuriatingly humble gamer.”