Harassment cries Amnesty, as Bengaluru offices face CBI heat

Bengaluru: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday searched the offices of Amnesty International India and Indians for Amnesty International Trust (Amnesty India) in Bengaluru and New Delhi over alleged irregularities in foreign funding.

The CBI raid comes a year after the Enforcement Directorate (ED) carried out searches at two locations of Amnesty International India in Bengaluru for allegedly bypassing the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act after they were denied permission by the home ministry.

However, the human right watchdog labelled the raids as "a pattern of harassment for standing up and speaking out against human rights violations in India".

Friday's raid coincided with the appointment of JNU alumnus Avinash Kumar as the Executive Director of the Amnesty International India as Aakar Patel who held this post stepped down.

According to a source in the Amnesty International India, the raid began at 8.30 am by six CBI officials raid and it ended at around 5.30 pm. In a statement, the Amnesty International India said, "Over the past year, a pattern of harassment has emerged every time Amnesty India stands up and speaks out against human rights violations in India."

It further said that it stand in full compliance with Indian and international law. "Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold and fight for universal human rights. These are the same values that are enshrined in the Indian Constitution and flow from a long and rich Indian tradition of pluralism, tolerance, and dissent," the statement read.

"As part of the Nobel Prize-winning movement, Amnesty India holds itself to the highest evidentiary standards. Over four million Indians have supported Amnesty India’s work in the last six years and around 1,00,000 Indians have made financial contributions.

Our work in India, as elsewhere, is to uphold universal human rights and build a global movement of people who take injustice personally," the statement read.

A statement from the CBI said that the investigating agency carried out the searches based on a complaint received on November 5 from the Ministry of Home Affairs against Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL); Indians For Amnesty International Trust (IAIT),  Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT), Amnesty International South Asia Foundation (AISAF) and Unknown others.

"It was alleged that the provision of the Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, 2010 and Indian Penal Code were contravened by the aforesaid entities by receiving foreign contributions from Amnesty International U.K through AIIPL even though prior registration or permissions were denied to Amnesty International India Foundation Trust (AIIFT) and other Trusts under FCRA," the statement read.

The CBI said that it conducted searches at three places in Bengaluru and one place in Delhi, and the investigation is underway.

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