Jailed separatist leader and chairperson of Tehreek-e-Hurriyat Mohammad Ashraf Sehrai died in a Jammu hospital on Wednesday, PTI reported.

The 77-year-old was a close aide of Hurriyat Conference leader Syed Ali Shah Geelani. He had replaced Geelani as chairperson of the Tehreek-e-Hurriyat in 2018.

Sehrai was one of those detained before the Centre stripped Jammu and Kashmir of its special constitutional autonomy under Article 370 and bifurcated it into two Union Territories on August 5, 2019. He was finally arrested under the Public Safety Act from his residence in Srinagar in July last year after his youngest son Junaid Ashraf Khan was killed in a gunfight with security forces. Khan had joined the Hizbul Mujahideen terror outfit in March 2018, according to PTI.

Sehrai was shifted to Government Medical College Hospital in Jammu on Tuesday after his health deteriorated, officials said. He had tested negative for the coronavirus in a rapid antigen and his RT-PCR report is still awaited, they added. Officials said he had shown symptoms of the infection and his oxygen levels had fallen.

Peoples Conference chief Sajad Lone questioned the government’s decision to keep an “old infirm” in jail during the raging coronavirus pandemic.

“Why did he have to die in incarceration and not at his home amongst his kin and loved ones,” he asked in a tweet. “Have we become so weak that an old infirm dying person is a threat to the state. I am not being critical. But please introspect. Seharai Sahib was a political leader not a terrorist.”