An Indian court on Thursday convicted top Kashmiri leader Mohammed Yasin Malik in a terrorism-related case that carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Malik had been charged with 'terrorist acts', illegally raising funds, being a member of a 'terrorist' organisation and criminal conspiracy and sedition.
Judge Praveen Singh set May 25 for hearing arguments from both sides on sentencing, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The judge also directed Malik to provide an affidavit regarding his financial assets.
During the trial, Malik protested the charges and said he was a freedom fighter.
“Terrorism-related charges levelled against me are concocted, fabricated and politically motivated,” his organisation, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, cited him as telling the court.
“If seeking azadi (freedom) is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences,” he told the judge.
The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front was one of the first armed freedom fighting groups to come into existence in Indian-occupied Kashmir (IoK). It supported an independent and united Kashmir. Led by Malik, the group gave up armed resistance in 1994.
A resistance movement broke out in IoK in 1989 with fighters demanding an independent Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups to fight Indian forces, an allegation Pakistan vehemently opposes and denies. Islamabad says it provides only moral and diplomatic support to insurgents.
PTI Vice President Fawad Chaudhry strongly condemned the development. He said Malik would always remain Pakistan's "hero".
Another PTI leader, Shireen Mazari, said the international community's silence over Malik's treatment was "deafening".