India demands Pakistan release accused ‘spy’ after world court ruling

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India yesterday demanded that Pakistan release an alleged spy after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) called for a review of a death sentence against him.

The arch-rivals each declared victory after the world court ruling made late Wednesday. But with 49-year-old Kulbhushan Jadhav still held in secret, his case risked setting off new tensions between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said Jadhav, a former navy officer, “is in the illegal custody of Pakistan under fabricated charges” as he welcomed the court ruling.

“Yesterday’s judgement is not only a vindication of India and Jadhav but for all those who believe in the rule of law and the sanctity of international conventions,” the minister added.

Jaishankar insisted that Jadhav “is innocent of the charges levelled against him” and had been forced to confess without access to a lawyer.

An Indian man holds a placard depicting Kulbhushan Jadhav, an Indian national convicted of spying in Pakistan, in the neighbourhood where he grew up, in Mumbai. – AFP

“We once again call upon Pakistan to release and repatriate him forthwith.”

The ICJ said Pakistan must give India consular access to the prisoner, give Jadhav proper representation and review the death sentence. But it rejected India’s demand that Jadhav be freed.

Pakistan said Jadhav was detained in its southwestern province of Baluchistan in March 2016.

It released a “confession” video in which Jadhav said he worked for Indian intelligence. A military court sentenced him to death in 2017.

According to Indian officials, Jadhav retired from the navy in 2001 and was running a “logistics” business in the Iranian port of Chabahar.

India insisted he was taken captive in Iran before being moved to Pakistan and then forced to confess.

It started an ICJ case in 2017. Throughout the hearings, Jadhav has been kept under strict lock and key in Pakistan.