Mohammed Zubair, co-founder of the fact-checking website Alt News, which denies misinformation in Indian media, was arrested on Monday and remanded in custody overnight by police, said KPS Malhotra, a deputy commissioner in Delhi’s cybercrime unit.
Malhotra said Zubair was arrested under two parts of Indian criminal law related to maintaining religious harmony.
Zubair often tweets criticism of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) for what he and other critics claim is an encroachment on the rights of the country’s around 200 million Muslims.
Zubair’s lawyer, Kawalpreet Kaur, said the journalist had been summoned for questioning in connection with a criminal investigation in 2020 of his posts on social media – which he had previously received protection against arrest by the Delhi High Court. But when he responded to the summons, the police arrested him over a separate case, 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 the renaming of a hotel after a Hindu god.
She accused the authorities of not following the correct procedure and of not informing Zubair.
Malhotra, the deputy commissioner, did not answer CNN’s question about whether the police had followed the correct procedure during the arrest.
Among Zubair’s recent posts on social media are videos he claims show Hindu extremists holding hateful remarks against Islam, a minority religion in India where almost 80% of the population are Hindus.
Zubair’s arrest has upset politicians, journalists and news organizations, who have demanded his release.
Shashi Tharoor, a Member of Parliament from India’s opposition Congress party, said the arrest was an “attack on the truth”.