Indian police said Wednesday they had arrested an Indian journalist working for an Iranian media organisation in connection with a bomb attack last month targeting an Israeli diplomat.
Syed Mohammed Kazmi, a 50-year-old veteran reporter, was later presented in a New Delhi court where he was remanded in custody for 20 days.
Police spokesman Rajan Bhagat declined to specify the charges against Kazmi or the Iranian media organisation he was alleged to work for.
Kazmi’s lawyer Vinod Aggarwal insisted the suspect, who was brought to the court with his face covered with a sheet, had been “falsely implicated” in the bombing.
“He is not an international terrorist, rather he is a national hero,” Aggarwal told reporters afterwards, saying the reporter had some links to Iran having covered the Iran-Iraq war for Indian state TV network Doordarshan.
“That is why he is in touch with a couple of (Iranian) people… that does not make him a terrorist,” the lawyer said as armed policemen escorted Kazmi into a waiting police vehicle at the city’s Tees Hazari court complex.
S.M Khan, director general of news at Doordarshan, told AFP that Kazmi was part of the network’s freelance news reading pool.
“He was a casual news reader working in the Urdu news section. He had been coming to read news since 1998. He was not on our payroll. We do not know which Iranian organisation he worked for,” Khan said.
The chief of the state-run Press Information Bureau, Neelam Kapoor, told AFP she was unsure if Kazmi was accredited with the government while the Press Club of India said it did not have the suspect on its rolls as a member.
The Press Trust of India cited unnamed sources accusing Kazmi of helping the attackers monitor the movements of diplomats at the Israeli embassy in New Delhi before the February 13 attack.
A 42-year-old Israeli diplomat, the wife of the defence attache at the embassy, was badly wounded in the attack when a motorcyclist attached a bomb to the back of her vehicle in central New Delhi.
Israel accused Iran of carrying out the car bombing which came on the same day as another attempted attack on an Israeli embassy car in Georgia.
A day later, Thai police arrested two Iranian men in Bangkok who are suspected of planning an attack on Israeli diplomats.
Tehran has denied any involvement in the alleged plots.
Home Minister P. Chidambaram last month said police and security agencies were “confident” of cracking the car bombing case, which came five months after a powerful blast at the Delhi High Court killed 13 people.
The arrest came ahead of a controversial four-day visit to Iran on Saturday by an Indian trade delegation which is looking to exploit opportunities created by US-led sanctions against the Islamic republic.
Pro-Israeli groups in the United States and other critics have accused India of undermining international efforts to isolate Iran over its disputed nuclear programme.