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Sunday, 24 January 2010

FAO Ajmer Public Prosecutors Office, Indian Military Intellegence and Pushkar Police


There is no way for a well intentioned tourist coming to India to discover that they need a permit for their satellite phone and, I’ve since learnt, that there is actually no formal procedure to apply for and obtain a permit. I accept that I may have unwittingly broken the rules but I will leave it to individuals to judge if they think prison time is a reasonable punishment for this technical offence. I can understand that if a terrorist uses a satellite phone to organise attacks they should face a harsh sentence, but that same punishment shouldn’t apply to an innocent person possessing a satellite phone so their mother can call to check on them when she is worried.

It’s been fascinating to see first-hand, how the security services work in India. I’m grateful to the police for having done such a diligent job in investigating me thoroughly. At the end of this process I don’t want anyone in India to have any doubt about my intentions and motives. I want to be able to walk down the street in India and be trusted by the friendly, kind and generous people I’ve met here. So it’s good that the police have left no stone unturned in assuring themselves I am of good character.

When I was first arrested they had no way of knowing who I was, and considering the troubled times in which we live in, it is understandable that they err on the side of caution and cover all eventualities when framing the initial charges. But when they submit their charge sheet on the 28th it will be the culmination of all the evidence they have collected over the previous 17 days, and this is the appropriate time for them to drop the Information Technology Act charge against me, because it is a law designed to stop terrorists, and not punish unwitting tourists. The legislator who wrote this law has publicly said so in the Indian press.

If the police drop this charge I don't think it would be fair for the press to criticise them for doing so at this stage.

The other 2 charges they have also filed against me (The Indian Wireless Telegraphy Act and The Indian Telegraph Act) are far more appropriate legislation to punish my innocent mistake, and I’m glad this will give India the chance to demonstrate, as the world watches, how it's legal system balances the challenge of apprehending terrorists the need to treat innocent citizens and visitors fairly.

I hope that the high public profile of this case, nationally and internationally, will prevent other tourists making this same mistake, and allow the security services to concentrate on catching terrorists and not on investigating minor technical offences in the future.

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