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Apple won't unlock India Prime Minister's election opponent's iPhone

Indian election rival Arvind Kejriwal has refused to unlock his iPhone after his arrest

India's Enforcement Directorate has jailed Delhi's Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal ahead of elections, and wants proof of alleged bribery it says is locked in his iPhone.

Kejriwal is the chief of the Aam Aadmi Party, also known as the common man's party, and together with two aides, was arrested on Friday March 29, 2024. The Chief Minister, a rival to prime minister Narendra Modi in the forthcoming general election, is now in judicial custody over alleged corruption.

According to The Indian Express, officials also seized four iPhones, including Kejriwal's. He has refused to unlock his iPhone, saying that doing so would give the Enforcement Directorate (ED) details of his election strategy, and what are described as pre-poll alliances.

The Indian Express article leads with how the ED has asked Apple to unlock the iPhone, and refers to it having officially requested help. But it then only quite quietly reveals that Apple must have said no.

"[The ED has] been told that a password was necessary for retrieving any data," says the publication.

Kejriwal and his assistants are accused specifically of corruption relating to a liquor policy that was being drafted in 2020/2021. Reportedly, the Chief Minister has said that he has subsequently upgrade his iPhone, with the publication accepting that this means any contemporaneous data is no longer available.

The judicial custody sentence is due to last seven days, though it's not clear when that week began. What is clearer, though, is that India's general election takes place over an extended period beginning April 19, 2024.

Supporters of Kejriwal say that the arrest and jailing is politically motivated, with the ED being government-controlled.

Apple has not commented on the request to unlock the iPhone. The company does have a policy of providing law enforcement with certain information when subpoenaed, but it will never unlock iPhones.

Separately, Apple CEO Tim Cook has met with current Indian prime minister Narendra Modi several times. India has become increasingly important to Apple as it works to move away from over-reliance on China for its manufacturing.