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Indian court extends opposition leader’s custody for another 4 days

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An Indian court on Thursday extended the custody of a senior opposition leader by four days, after his arrest last week sparked protests, as the country prepares for general elections starting next month .

Arvind Kejriwal, New Delhi’s highest elected official and one of the country’s most prominent politicians over the past decade, was arrested by the Federal Enforcement Directorate on March 21. The agency, controlled by Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, accused Kejriwal’s party and ministers of accepting 1 billion rupees ($12 million) in bribes almost two years ago were paid by alcohol sellers.

The Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man’s Party, denied the accusations and said Kejriwal would remain its chief minister while he fought the case in court.

In court on Thursday, Kejriwal called his arrest a “political conspiracy.” His political party is part of a broad alliance of opposition parties called INDIA, which is the main challenger to Modi’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party in the upcoming elections.

Hundreds of Kejriwal’s supporters have demonstrated since his arrest Friday by the Enforcement Directorate, the federal agency responsible for investigating economic crimes.

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The agency accused Kejriwal of being the “kingpin and key conspirator” in the liquor bribery case. Kejriwal refuted the allegations and accused the management of “manipulating investigative agencies for political motives”.

leader of the opposition at the Indian court in New Delhi

Arvind Kejriwal, leader of the Aam Admi Party, or Common Man’s Party, leaves the court after a controversial decision to extend his detention for another four days, Thursday, March 28, 2024. (AP Photo/Dinesh Joshi)

Kejriwal’s case has dominated the news in India in the run-up to the general elections which begin on April 19. India’s opposition parties say the government is abusing its power to harass and weaken its political opponents, pointing to a series of raids, arrests and corruption investigations against key players. opposition figures. Meanwhile, some investigations against former opposition leaders who later defected to the BJP have been dropped.

The BJP denies targeting the opposition and says law enforcement acts independently.

Kejriwal’s arrest is the latest setback for the bloc, and comes after the country’s main opposition party, the Congress, last week accused the government of freezing its bank accounts as part of a tax dispute to paralyze him. Opposition figures called the move undemocratic and accused Modi’s party of misusing the agency to weaken them.

U.S. State Department spokesman Mathew Miller said this week that Washington was monitoring Kejriwal’s case.

“We are also aware of the Congress Party’s allegations that tax authorities have frozen some of their bank accounts in a way that will make it difficult to campaign effectively in the upcoming election,” Miller said, adding that the U.S. encouraged a fair and transparent legal process. process for each of these questions.

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Indian officials objected to the comments on Wednesday and summoned a senior official from the US embassy in New Delhi. India’s foreign ministry spokesperson said Thursday that the State Department’s remarks were unwarranted.

“In India, legal processes are governed solely by the rule of law. Anyone who shares the same philosophy, especially in other democracies, should have no difficulty appreciating this fact,” Randhir Jaiswal told reporters.

New Delhi also summoned a senior German embassy official this weekend after the foreign ministry spokesperson said it was following Kejriwal’s case and that the opposition leader had the right to a free and fair trial.

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