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Former J&K Bar Association president arrested in advocate’s murder case

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SRINAGAR: The Jammu and Kashmir Police arrested former Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association President Mian Qayoom on Tuesday for his alleged involvement in the murder conspiracy of fellow advocate Babar Qadri in 2020, officials here said.
Qayoom, known for his close association with pro-Pakistan separatist leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani, was taken into custody after the State Investigation Agency (SIA) collected substantial evidence against him, the officials said.
Qadri, a human rights expert who frequently appeared on television debates, was fatally shot at his residence in the Hawal area of downtown in September 2020. He had narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 2018.
The officials said that during the investigation, Qayoom emerged as the primary suspect behind the murder conspiracy.
Qayoom is the father-in-law of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh High Court judge Justice Javed Iqbal Wani.
Following the high-profile killing, a Special Investigation Team (SIT) was formed by the police to probe into Qadri’s murder. Subsequently, the case was transferred to the SIA for further examination. In a related development, in August 2022, the police conducted searches at Qayoom’s residences and those of two other lawyers in Srinagar, seizing various digital devices, bank statements and documents, as part of the ongoing probe.
Last September, the SIA announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for any information leading to the apprehension of Qadri’s assailants.
Qadri had been a vocal critic of the bar association leadership, particularly targeting Qayoom, and had expressed concerns about his safety just days before his murder. In a Facebook video posted a few days before his death, Qadri accused Qayoom of stifling dissent and transforming the bar association into a mouthpiece for separatist leader Geelani’s Hurriyat Conference faction.
The police had alleged the involvement of Saqib Manzoor, a Lashkar-e-Taiba commander, in Qadri’s killing.
Manzoor was killed during a police encounter in Srinagar alongside another militant commander in 2022.
Earlier this year, the high court transferred the case to a Jammu court from Srinagar, saying, “For a fair and impartial trial of a criminal case, it is imperative that the witnesses are in a position to depose in an atmosphere, which is free and not hostile.” The high court order came on an application moved by the SIA, saying no lawyer from Srinagar was willing to render legal assistance due to the involvement of some influential lawyers based in Srinagar.

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