India summons US State Department official over call for fair legal treatment of arrested opposition leader

India’s Ministry of External Affairs summoned a US State Department official after the department called for a fair legal process for opposition leader and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal following his arrest last week.

“We take strong objection to the remarks of the Spokesperson of the US State Department about certain legal proceedings in India,” the Ministry said in a statement Wednesday.

“In diplomacy, states are expected to be respectful of the sovereignty and internal affairs of others. This responsibility is even more so in case of fellow democracies,” the statement added.

The Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday summoned Gloria Berbena, the State Department Minister-Counselor for Public Diplomacy, according to a diplomatic officer with knowledge of the matter.

At a briefing later on Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller declined to discuss “private diplomatic conversations” when asked about Berbena’s summoning, but stood by the department’s previous comments.

“We encourage fair, transparent, timely legal processes. We don’t think anyone should object to that, and we’ll make the same thing clear privately,” Miller said.

Kejriwal was taken into custody on March 21 following a raid on his home by the federal financial crimes agency, members of his Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said, in the latest blow to an alliance of parties aiming to unseat Modi as he seeks a third consecutive term.

He is one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s fiercest critics and Kejriwal’s allies have claimed the arrest was politically motivated.

His arrest comes as tensions run high ahead of a crucial nationwide election which begins on April 19, in which Modi is widely expected to leave the opposition languishing despite sharp criticism over his perceived erosion of the country’s democratic founding principles.

India’s main opposition, the Indian National Congress, has also accused the BJP of using the tax department to “cripple” their finances. The party claimed their bank accounts had been frozen by the tax department, leaving them unable to use some $20 million in funds.

Human Rights group Amnesty International warned following the arrest of Kejriwal that a crackdown on Indian opposition figures and parties by the government had reached a “crisis point” ahead of the national elections.

“The arrest of Arvind Kejriwal and the freezing of Indian National Congress’ bank accounts a few weeks before India holds its general elections show the authorities’ blatant failure to uphold the country’s international human rights obligations.”

This post appeared first on cnn.com
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