Berkeley universities

Amnesty India chairman Aakar Patel stopped at Bengaluru airport on his way to the US

Amnesty International India Chairman Aakar Patel said on Wednesday that he was prevented from traveling to the United States by immigration authorities at Bengaluru International Airport on the basis of a circular from surveillance issued by the CBI in connection with a case against Amnesty India in 2019.

“When I went to the airport this morning, immigration said I’m on the CBI Look Out (LOC) circular. That was something I didn’t know. I checked into CBI every time that they called me. I don’t know why they should have a watch circular for someone they know,” Patel, 51, said Wednesday morning. “I found out I was on the watch list only when I went to the airport. It happened after check-in, at immigration. We put our luggage and had to go through immigration,” he said.

Patel had recently recovered his passport from a court in Surat in connection with a case filed by a BJP lawmaker and was to travel to the United States on Wednesday morning at the invitation of some universities to give lectures. A Surat magistrate’s court in February ordered the release of the Amnesty chairman’s passport for the period from March 1 to May 30 to facilitate his trip to the United States. The passport was released upon payment of a deposit of Rs 2 lakh and other conditions such as travel details, contact numbers and places of visit in the United States.

“I was supposed to go and speak at some universities in the United States – Berkeley and New York University – and my passport had been confiscated in a case that a BJP MP had filed against me in Surat. As part of condition of release on bail, I had to surrender my passport,” said the president of Amnesty International.

“After American universities asked me to speak in the United States, I moved the court and got my passport back. The government opposed it. The prosecutor objected and the court rejected the government’s argument and let me travel to the United States,” he said. “This CBI case refers to my position as head of Amnesty India. They raided us in November 2020. The case is being prosecuted in CMM Court at Rouse Avenue,” he added.

The former journalist’s passport was confiscated after a complaint was filed by BJP MP Purnesh Modi over his social media comment on Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Surat Police filed a complaint under the articles relating to the promotion of discord between communities.

In October 2018, Amnesty India properties in Bangalore have been wanted by the ED in a case where Amnesty International India Foundation Trust was accused of attempting to evade the rules of the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA), after being denied authorization/registration under the FCRA by the Union Home Office. Amnesty has been accused of setting up a business arm called Amnesty International India Pvt Ltd to receive foreign funding in violation of FCRA rules.

Following ED’s investigation, the Income Tax Department “sent letters of inquiry to more than 30 regular small donors” about the NGO’s funding which “harmed fundraising campaigns funds from Amnesty International India”, according to the NGO. Subsequently, in November 2019, the CBI filed a complaint against Amnesty International India Pvt. Ltd (AIIPL), Indians For Amnesty International Trust, Amnesty International India Foundation Trust, Amnesty International South Asia Foundation and others regarding the alleged fraud.