Page last updated at 05:23 GMT, Tuesday, 2 September 2008 06:23 UK

Kashmir separatist leaders freed

Syed Ali Shah Geelani (l) and Mirwaiz Omar Farooq (r)
The leaders were held ahead of pro-freedom rallies

Three senior separatist leaders in Indian-administered Kashmir have been released from police custody.

Syed Ali Shah Geelani, Mirwaiz Omar Farooq and Yasin Malik were held during rallies demanding independence.

Another leader, Shabir Shah, faces up to two years in prison without trial after being charged with activities prejudicial to the security of India.

Meanwhile, authorities have relaxed a curfew during the day in the mainly Muslim Kashmir valley after nine days.

The three leaders were released late on Monday. Mr Geelani was shifted to a hospital for treatment after his release.

The release of the three leaders came a day after a controversial land decision over a Hindu pilgrimage.

Some 100 acres of land are to be set aside for use by a Hindu trust during an annual Hindu pilgrimage.

Muslims have expressed anger over the move, but Hindus have welcomed the move and called off their protests in the long-running dispute.

The BBC's Altaf Hussain in the summer capital, Srinagar, says normalcy is returning to the valley after curfew during the day was lifted on Tuesday.

Businesses, schools and government offices have reopened, and traffic is plying in the valley.


A committee representing the separatist groups has asked people to resume business. But it has also asked businesses to shut down in the valley after 4 pm till Thursday.

The dispute over the pilgrimage land began in May when the state government said 99 acres (40 hectares) of state-controlled land would be given to the Amarnath Shrine Trust - a group that safeguards the annual Hindu pilgrimage to the Amarnath cave, one of the holiest shrines in Hinduism.

The move unleashed anger among Kashmir Muslims and since June there has been a re-emergence of mass demonstrations calling for independence from India.

Not long after the Muslim protests started, the state government abandoned the land transfer.

That resulted in Hindus concentrated in the Jammu region of the state taking to the streets and blockading the main supply routes to Srinagar.

Some 40 people have been killed in the protests, most of them Muslim.

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