Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of fact-checking website Alt News, which exposes misinformation in Indian media, was arrested on Monday and placed in police custody overnight, Malhotra, deputy commissioner of Delhi’s cybercrime department, told KPS.
Malhotra said Zubair was arrested under two sections of the Indian Penal Code related to religious harmony.
Zubair has frequently tweeted to criticize Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for what he and other critics describe as a crackdown on the rights of the country’s estimated 200 million Muslims.
Zubair’s lawyer, Kawalpreet Kaur, said the journalist was called in for questioning in connection with a 2020 criminal investigation over his social media posts, from which he was previously granted protection from arrest by the Delhi High Court. But when he answered the call, the police arrested him on another matter, she said.
Kaur showed CNN a police complaint in which a Twitter user accused Zubair of insulting Hindus on the platform in 2018 in a post about renaming a hotel after a Hindu god.
She accused the authorities of not following due process and not notifying Zubair.
Malhotra, the deputy commissioner, did not respond to CNN’s questions about whether police followed due process at the time of the arrest.
Among Zubair’s recent social media posts are videos of what he claims are Hindu extremists delivering hate speech against Islam, a minority religion in India, where almost 80% of the population is Hindu.
Zubair’s arrest angered politicians, journalists and news organizations who demanded his release.
Shashi Tharoor, an MP from the opposition Congress Party of India, called the arrest “an attack on the truth.”