Indian government ordered to unfreeze Greenpeace funds

A Greenpeace protest in India Image copyright AFP
Image caption India's intelligence service has accused Greenpeace of running campaigns that hurt Indian business

An Indian court has ordered the government to release thousands of dollars in funds belonging to the environmental pressure group Greenpeace.

The funds, which had been sent from abroad, were frozen amid accusations that campaign groups were hurting India's economy.

The money, totalling more than $272,000 (£179,000), was frozen in June 2014.

Greenpeace has called the ruling a victory of democracy and free speech.

Greenpeace India said the government had "arbitrarily barred" it from receiving foreign funds from Greenpeace International and Climate Works Foundation in June 2014.

The Delhi High Court directed the home ministry to unblock the funds in September 2014 but Greenpeace India said it did not receive the money.

Tuesday's ruling means the funds will be released with immediate effect, the group said.

"This is a vindication of our work and the role that credible NGOs (non-governmental organisations) play in support of India's development," Samit Aich, Greenpeace India's executive director, said in a statement.

"This is a strong signal from the judiciary that the government must cease its campaign of harassment of civil society" he said.

Doubts continue

India's government can appeal against the decision in a higher court.

The BBC's correspondent in Mumbai, Yogita Limaye, says Tuesday's ruling only pertains to the specific funds frozen in June and does not affect the order the government has in place to prevent Greenpeace and some other NGOs from getting other funds from abroad without the clearance of the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The order came after an Indian intelligence report last year accused several campaign groups of stalling development projects by carrying out protests against their environmental impact.

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