By Muslim Mirror News,
New Delhi, May 28: Ashish Khetan, one of the most respected investigative journalists of India, has submitted a groundbreaking investigative report with the Bombay High Court detailing how the Maharashtra ATS implicated innocent Muslim youths in terror blast cases. Khetan filed the report in the form of a letter petition, a copy of which he has sent to Muslim Mirror.
Khetan, who shook the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat by investigative stories on Godhra and post-Godhra riots, has investigated three terror cases of Maharashtra — July 11, 2006 Mumbai local train blasts, the 2006 Malegaon Blasts and the Pune German Bakery blast of February 2010. After one year of investigation, Ashish Khetan found “ATS has deliberately created bogus evidence, extracted false confessions by the most inhuman torture, planted explosives in the houses of the accused and thus implicated innocent Muslim youth.”
“For more than a year I have been researching the investigation of terror cases by the ATS Maharashtra. Sporadic press reports have appeared about conflicting versions given by different police agencies on the same cases. This aroused my interest and I set about carefully and slowly unearthing material on the matter. My research has shown that at least in three cases prosecuted by ATS Maharashtra, namely the July 11, 2006 Mumbai local train blasts, the 2006 Malegaon Blasts and the Pune German Bakery case of February 2010, the ATS has deliberately created bogus evidence, extracted false confessions by the most inhuman torture, planted explosives in the houses of the accused and thus implicated innocent Muslim youth,” Khetan says in the petition sent to the chief justice of Bombay High Court earlier this month.
He says he has approached the Bombay High Court because it is an urgent matter because a trial court has pronounced death penalty to one innocent Muslim youth in German Bakery blast case.
“I am approaching your Hon’ble Court by this letter petition in public interest, for my recent investigative efforts as a journalist have led to a clear and compelling picture of the deliberate framing of Muslims, (–most of them very young and very poor–) in terror cases by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) of Maharashtra. The consequences should shock anyone with a conscience. In one case known as Pune German Bakery Blast Case, the drastic death sentence has even been pronounced by the trial court. The matter thus is of great moment and equally great urgency,” he says.
Who is Ashish Khetan?
He is a journalist of 12 years standing. He worked with the well-known magazine Tehelka for four years. During that period, he authored investigative reports on many important cases including those arising from the Gujarat riots of 2002, such as the Naroda Gaon, Naroda Patiya and Gulberg Society massacres and the Best Bakery carnage. His investigative reports have received acclaim, and have also been used by investigators and the courts of law. In 2007 after his investigative report on the Gujarat riots was published widely, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) ordered an enquiry into the revelations in his report containing approximately 60 hours of video footage. On the orders of the NHRC, the tapes were tested by FSL, Jaipur and were found completely authentic and tamper-free. Subsequent to the publication of his investigations (or ‘sting operation’, in common parlance) in October 2007, the Supreme Court constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to re-investigate many cases pertaining to the Godhra and post-Godhra riots. SIT cited him as a prosecution witness in three major riot cases. His testimony in this regard has been relied upon by the trial court in the Naroda Patiya case and several convictions were based on his evidence.
After his ‘sting operation’ in the infamous Best Bakery case, the Supreme Court constituted a Quasi Judicial Committee headed by the then Registrar General, Supreme Court, which too found his investigative reports authentic and trustworthy. Many of the findings of the committee were based on his report alone.
It was his reportage on Hindutva terror groups that catalysed the investigation in the Malegaon blasts of 2006, the Samjhauta Express blasts, the Ajmer Sharif blasts and the Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blasts. As a result, the innocent persons hitherto arrested for these outrages were released on bail and the prosecution turned to those now believed to have been actually responsible for these terror attacks.
Excerpts from the petition
JULY 7 TRAIN BOMBINGS (Case no. MCOCA Special Case No.21/2006)
On July 11, 2006, Mumbai was rocked by blasts in local trains. The police found no leads and there was great public anger. In time the ATS claimed to have solved the crime. The ATS cracked down on some former activists of the Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and forced the accused to sign on pre-drafted confessions, about which more will be stated presently. A charge-sheet was filed against 13 arrested accused, and 15 absconding accused on December 1, 2006. Since then the trial is going on as MCOCA Special Case No.21/2006 in the court of the Special Judge Y.D. Shinde under the provisions of MCOCA.
Evidence Led and Courts Mislead
The evidence lead in the charge-sheet is/was of three kinds a) 11 MCOCA confessions made to police officers; b) recoveries of explosives and detonators from some of the accused and;c) so-called public witnesses ( well known stool pigeons or those under the thumb of the police) who claimed the unlikely feat of recognising the faces of some of the accused, getting in and out from the crowded local trains though they were strangers to them. However, against most of the accused, the case is based on confessions and recoveries.
Confessions to same crime by an unrelated set of persons:caught for the subsequent 2007-2008 Blasts: Concealment and twisting by ATS of Police Reports and Confessions that prove ATS framed innocent men.
Which of them is true and which Court has been misled?
The 2007-2008 Blasts across India and revelations in its wake.
In July and September 2008, there were serial blasts in Delhi, Ahmedabad and Surat (aborted blasts). Following some leads in these blasts, the Mumbai Crime Branch arrested one Sadiq Sheikh along with 20 other accused from Mumbai and other parts of Maharashtra.
The Mumbai Crime Branch claims to have recorded confessions of many of the arrested persons including Sadiq Shaikh, as this was also a MCOCA investigation.
This was a crucial juncture in terror investigations in India. In a span of a little over one year between August 2007 and September 2008, there were terror bombings in Bangalore (seven serial blasts of July 2008), Hyderabad (Lumbini Park and Gokul Chaat Blasts of August 2007), UP (Triple blasts at Court premises in Lucknow, Varanasi and Faizabad, November 2007), Jaipur (serial blasts of May 2008), Ahmedabad (21 serial blasts in July 2008) and Surat (Aborted attempt as eighteen Bombs malfunctioned) and Delhi (Five syncronized bomb blasts in market places of Delhi in September, 2008). The series of bombings across India indicated a single, integral conspiracy and consequently brought several investigating agencies of different states together and pooling of information.
Thus, the confessions of Sadiq Sheikh and others as recorded by the Mumbai Crime Branch, are significant, because they clearly are to the effect that even the July Mumbai local train bombings of 2006 were done by this set of people newly arrested and without any reference or link to those prosecuted by the ATS from 2006 onwards!
In other words the set of men arrested following the 2007 and 2008 set of bombings across the country were interrogated by Ahmedabad, Delhi, UP, Karnataka and other police teams and were subsequently made common accused in all these 2007-2008 blasts.
Sadiq Sheikh and his alleged ‘Indian Mujahideen’ accomplices were interrogated by different police agencies on different dates. Each agency prepared detailed Interrogation Reports (IRs). Common to all is the view or conclusion that it is this set of men that were behind even the July 2006 Mumbai local train bombings.
My sources in Mumbai police and state police agencies of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka who were involved in investigating ‘Indian Mujahideen’ and its alleged involvement in the 2007 and 2008 blasts provided me the Interrogation Reports of Sadiq Sheikh and others prepared by each of these agencies (All these interrogation reports are annexed as Annexure III). These Interrogation Reports show the dates on which they were prepared and the computers on which they were prepared.
All these Interrogation Reports (IRs) based on ‘confessions’ of Sadiq Shaikh indicate a massive and integral conspiracy. These IRs contain a meticulously detailed description of more than eight terror strikes that Sadiq Sheikh and his accomplices had allegedly plotted and executed since 2003. These are:
a. Dashavmeghghat, Varanasi, 2004 (the bomb packed in a container had failed to explode. The local police dismissed it as an accident. But Sadiq told the police that it was actually a terror plot)
b. Shramjeevi Express Blast, Jaunpur, UP., 2005
c. Diwali Blasts, Delhi, 2005
d. Varanasi Blasts, 2006
e. Mumbai Train Blasts, 2006
f. Hyderabad Twin Blasts, 2007
g. Ahmedabad Blasts and the failed Surat Blasts.
The agencies have themselves claimed (both in court and in public) that Sadiq’s interrogation led to the arrest of over 70 terror suspects by UP ATS, Hyderabad CIC, Ahmedabad Crime Branch, Rajasthan ATS and Delhi Special Cell. The content of these reports, and ‘confessions’ etc is part of the charge-sheets filed by different agencies. But curiously Sadiq and his accomplices were charge-sheeted in only those blast cases in which the investigation was still not completed. Hyderabad Blasts (Gokul Chat and Lumbini Park) of 2007, Ahmedabad and Surat (aborted) Blasts of 2008, Delhi Blasts of 2008 were some of the cases in which the alleged Indian Mujahideen members including Sadiq Shaikh were charges-sheeted.
But those revelations that related to the 7/11 Mumbai Train Blasts were conveniently brushed under the carpet.
All these agencies were equally aware that an entirely different set of persons had been put on trial for the 7/11 blasts by ATS Maharashtra, which set of accused could only be innocent, if the later 2008 Interrogation reports were true.
Thus at least after 2008 September, all the said agencies including ATS Maharashtra were privy to the nature of evidence and revelations pertaining to the July 11 2006 Train Bombings and they heavily relied on these revelations in the investigations pertaining to the 2007-2008 bombings.
But those revelations that talked about the blasts carried out before 2007 were ignored because those cases had already been claimed to have been solved. This policy of pick and choose raises a serious question mark about the integrity of terror investigations and the conduct of the agencies.
The lack of bonafides is further evident from the fact that no attempt was made to arrive at the truth or exonerate one set of obviously innocent persons.
None of these agencies placed the entire relevant material before the MCOCA court trying an entirely unconnected set of 13 men for 7/11 Blasts. Why?
My intent is not pass a verdict of guilt against certain accused. But it is to only highlight the blatant discrepancies and contradictions in terror investigations.
HOW WAS MUMBAI COURT TRYING JULY BOMBINGS MISLEAD
In fact what followed was a sinister conspiracy by Maharashtra ATS to mislead the courts. On 26 November 2008 Hemant Karkare died. Karkare had earlier been seen at public press briefs to declare that the new set of persons including Sadiq Shaikh (all allegedly part of Indian Mujahideen) arrested in 2008 were responsible for July 2006 bombings, for which a different set of persons had been in custody for two years already.
Shri KP Raghuvanshi (IPS), who was in charge of the ATS when 13 Muslims were arrested for the July bombings, resumed charge of ATS Maharashtra after Shri Hemant Karkare’s death.
Under Raghuvanshi’s leadership, ATS Maharashtra now set about ensuring that no one should catch on– to the entirely different truth now emerging. This was done by first taking an ATS police remand of Sadiq Shaikh to probe his role in the July 2006 bombings. Then, in order to avoid having to admit that 13 men were most unjustly arrested and charged, an ingenious method was adopted. The ATS came out with the tale that Sadiq’s ‘confession’ related to 7/11 bombings was only meant to mislead the agencies and that portion of his confession where revelations pertaining to 7/11 figure are false! The ATS then sought his discharge in respect of the July bombings!.
INHUMAN TORTURE AND FAKED CONFESSIONS
In view of the fact that the original 13 accused who were clearly falsely implicated have continued to be on trial. To persist with a farcical prosecution even in the face of contrary and conflicting evidence demonstrates a complete disregard for human life and liberty. I personally interviewed nine out of the 13 accused. All 13 have been in custody for the last seven years. A good part of their life has been spent behind the bars. Their families, on the other hand, have been forced to live a life of extreme hardships and in some cases abject poverty.
The ATS conducted on them the most inhuman torture to extract confessions to acts that records indicate as almost certainly done by someone else. I have video recordings of the prisoners conducted in the corridors of the courts, and I annex the video recordings and transcripts of the interviews conducted with the 7/11 accused as ANNEXURE IV. The same will speak for themselves. Water boarding (a notorious technique used by the CIA on Guantanamo Bay Detainees), administration of chemicals through anus and veins, stretching of legs to 180 degree, giving electric shock to private parts and threats to rape female family members were some of the methods of torture used by the ATS to extract false confessions from these 13 Muslims. Interviews of nine out of thirteen prisoners will bear out the obvious truth of what these men say they were subjected too, and subjected to for no reason at all. The torture continued for 3-4 months including the period of illegal detention and the separate police remand for each incident of blast although eventually all 7 were clubbed into one charge-sheet. ATS Kala Chowki was the torture chamber. Senior IPS officers like the then Mumbai Police Commissioner A N Roy, ATS Chief KP Raguvanshi and ATS DCP Nawal Bajaj, were also involved in torturing the detainees.
The interviews and the transcripts will speak for themselves.
The prisoners all say, that the torture was with a view to getting them sign on pre-recorded confessions, and even to pressurize some to turn approver.
Interestingly those portions of Sadiq’s revelations which were not in conflict with earlier bogus investigations like that of 7/11 were ratified, confirmed and further bolstered by collecting various primary and secondary evidence by the agencies like Ahmedabad ATS and Mumbai Crime Branch.
The doctrine of severability, harmonious construction and other principles seem to have been pressed in respect of ‘confessions’ by the Maharashtra ATS. Shockingly, the Mumbai Crime Branch is still touting Sadiq’s original confessions in other courts, which the ATS had declared ‘misleading.’ Thus each court is being regaled with a different confession and different version on identical cases, and those getting the short end of the stick are some of the most hapless and voiceless Muslims, who have no means of securing the documents and witnesses “secreted’ with other agencies.
But the theory of proffering different stories for different courts is not restricted to the 7/11 case alone.