Aakar Patel, the chair of human rights watchdog Amnesty International India, on Wednesday said that he was stopped from travelling to the United States from the Bengaluru airport.
Patel tweeted that immigration officials informed him that the Central Bureau of Investigation has put him on the exit control list, which prevents a citizen from leaving a country.
“CBI officer called to say I am on the look out circular because of the case Modi government has filed against Amnesty International India,” he added, noting that he has not been arrested nor is he on bail with regards to the case.
“I don’t know why I am on the look out circular,” said Patel to PTI. “I did not know about it that I could not fly. I missed my flight and now I am back home. They (Immigration officials) did not let me go.”
Patel added that a Gujarat court had granted him permission to travel to the US after his passport was impounded when a BJP MLA in Surat filed a case against him. The court’s ruling shared by Patel showed that the judge had ordered his passport to be returned and allowed him to travel to the US between March 1 and May 30.
Patel was scheduled to go to the US to give lectures at Michigan University, Berkley University and New York University. He will consult his lawyers following the travel ban.
“This issue suddenly came up,” Patel told PTI. “Last time they [CBI] had called me was 14 months ago and I went there.”
Case against Amnesty
Amnesty International India has been accused of money laundering and criminal conspiracy in a case filed by the CBI.
The central agency has said that the Amnesty International India Foundation Trust was given permission during 2011-’12 for receiving foreign contributions from the Amnesty International-United Kingdom. However, it was cancelled following adverse inputs received from security agencies.
The agency alleged that the Indians for Amnesty International Trust and the Amnesty International India Private Limited were then formed in 2012-’13 and 2013-’14 to “escape the FCRA [Foreign Contribution Regulation Act] route”.
In September 2020, the human rights organisation said it was forced to shut its operations as the Indian government had frozen its bank accounts. The group had said its “lawful fundraising model” was being portrayed as money laundering because Amnesty India had challenged the “government’s grave inactions and excesses”.
The Centre had called the allegations unfortunate, exaggerated and “far from the truth”. Amnesty’s “glossy statements” about humanitarian work and speaking truth to power were nothing but a “ploy to divert attention” from their activities, which were in “clear contravention” of Indian laws, the government had said.