NEW DELHI (AP) — An Indian court on Thursday convicted a top Kashmiri separatist leader in a terrorism-related case that carries a maximum sentence of the death penalty or life imprisonment.
Mohammed Yasin Malik had been charged with terrorist acts, illegally raising funds, being a member of a terrorist organization, and criminal conspiracy and sedition.
Judge Praveen Singh set May 25 for hearing arguments from both sides on sentencing, the Press Trust of India news agency reported. The judge also directed Malik to provide an affidavit regarding his financial assets.
During the trial, Malik protested the charges and said he was a freedom fighter.
"Terrorism-related charges leveled against me are concocted, fabricated and politically motivated," his organization, the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, cited him as telling the court.
"If seeking Azadi (freedom) is a crime, then I am ready to accept this crime and its consequences,” he told the judge.
The Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front was one of the first armed rebel groups to come into existence in Indian-controlled Kashmir. It supported an independent and united Kashmir. Led by Malik, the group gave up armed rebellion in 1994.
An insurgency broke out in Indian-controlled Kashmir in 1989 with fighters demanding an independent Kashmir or its merger with Pakistan. India accuses Pakistan of arming and training rebel groups to fight Indian forces, a charge Pakistan denies. Islamabad says it provides only moral and diplomatic support to insurgents.
Kashmir has been divided between India and Pakistan since British colonialists granted them independence in 1947. Both claim the region in its entirety and have fought two of their three wars over control of Kashmir.
Associated Press Writer Aijaz Hussain contributed to this report from Srinagar, India.