India drops sedition charges against 15 Muslims

Police in central Indian state Thursday dropped sedition charges against 15 Muslim men for allegedly raising anti-India and pro-Pakistan slogans following the country's defeat in the international cricket tournament.

"These men have now been charged under Section 153-A of the Indian Penal Code for disturbing communal harmony. Section 124-A (sedition) has been dropped," said RK Yadav, investigating officer of the case.

The accused were arrested after complaints were filed against them that they had burst firecrackers and celebrated Pakistan's 180-run victory in the final of Champions Trophy, one of the major global cricket tournaments conducted by the International Cricket Council.

The incident took place in Mohad village of Burhanpur district in Madhya Pradesh state, some 350 kilometers (217 miles) from the state capital Bhopal.

However, police said the charge of conspiracy, which is section 120(B) of Indian Penal Code, will remain.

The accused were presented before the court on Tuesday and sent to jail.

The family of the accused Wednesday approached the president, the national and human rights commissions.

Father of one of the accused Sikander told Anadolu Agency: "Our children were not involved in any celebrations. We are poor people and have nothing to do with Pakistan. I came to know about this incident when police picked up my son."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International India in a statement has condemned the arrests, describing them as "another worrying sign of the erosion of freedom of expression in India".

Amnesty also called for the immediate release of the accused and repealing of the sedition law.
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