Formatting my phone is not illegal, says fact-checker Mohammed Zubair; Asks for bail but faces new charges

New Delhi:

Lawyer for fact-checker Mohammed Zubair told a Delhi court today that ‘formatting a phone is not illegal’, while police claimed a criminal conspiracy, insisting that it was not “just a tweet”.

The arguments arose during his bail plea hearing, which was also caught up in controversy, after police said he was denied bail even though the court did not rule. had not yet announced the decision. The bail denial order came at least two hours after police told the media.

Mr Zubair, co-founder of Alt News, was arrested over a four-year-old tweet on June 27 for allegedly hurting religious feelings, just a month after posting a video of the BJP leader suspended since Nupur Sharma’s speaking out against Prophet Muhammad on A TV series. He had been in custody for five days.

Opposing his bail application in Delhi’s Patiala House court today, police said Mr Zubair had received donations from countries including Pakistan and Syria. They said sections relating to destruction of evidence (formatted phone and deleted tweets) and criminal conspiracy have been added to the FIR, in addition to the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act 2010.

“This is not a foreclosure case. This is still a continuing offense because the tweet is still there,” the police attorney pleaded.

Mr Zubair’s lawyer pointed out that the tweet was a screenshot of the 1983 film “Kissi Se Na Kehna” which was cleared by the censor board. But police said when the film was released “it was not the age of the internet”.

“The donations are from Pakistan, Syria, so given the seriousness, this is not just a tweet… He deleted everything smartly. Deleting phone data after FIR is important,” police said.

But Mr Zubair’s lawyer told the court he had no knowledge of the FIR before his June 27 arrest. The FIR was filed on June 20 after a police officer saw a tweet objecting to Mr. Zubair’s tweet. On the day of his arrest, he had been summoned for questioning in another case, in which a court had already protected him from arrest.

“I (Zubair) was unaware of the FIR and the phone was not summoned. It’s not illegal to format my phone. It’s not weapons and ammunition, or a drug. I take serious legal and constitutional objections,” attorney Vrinda Grover said. , said on behalf of Mohammed Zubair.

Founded in 2017 as a non-profit organization, Alt News is among the largest fact-checking outlets in the world. Its founders – Pratik Sinha and Mohammed Zubair – have faced cases of trolling and online policing, especially by right-wing groups, for years. In a tweet after Mr. Zubair’s arrest, Mr. Sinha said: “At Alt News, we will continue to fight misinformation, misinformation and hate speech, and continue to hold people and organizations accountable, and nothing can stop it.”

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