Testimonies of two Karnataka youths acquitted of terror charges

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Part 2

By Muslim Mirror News,

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Karnataka terror cases
Photo: newzfirst.com

Bangalore, April 8: Below is detailed account of two Muslim youths who were picked, tortured, implicated in terror cases, but ultimately were acquitted of all charges by the court. This is an excerpt from 30-page fact-finding report “Permanent Suspects- Framing Muslim Youth in Karnataka” prepared by some social groups and released in Bangalore on 6th April 2013 — Editor.

“The discrimination practiced by the Indian state came home vividly to us when we visited in Belgaum and Hubli the families of those Muslim youth who were acquitted as well as those who were still under trial.

In the following section we present testimonies of two individuals who have been acquitted of terror charges in Belgaum, followed by testimonies of those families in Belgaum and Hubli whose sons are still in prison on similar charges.

 

Iqbal Ahmad Jakati

He was working for a long time (since 1992) in Tarun Bharati, a Marathi daily (of MES party persuasion) as a columnist. He used to write film reviews and other articles of cultural interest. He was also working as a salesman in Manikbal Automobiles when he was arrested in 2008. His father was a retired school Head Master in a government primary school, and died recently. He is married with 3 children— two girls aged 12 and 6, and a boy aged 11 year. His wife has studied

up to 10th standard, and doesn’t work. The Jakati community has about 150 members. The name comes from their job of collecting ‘jakaat’ (a toll collected from others as a percentage of their income) to distribute among others.)

Charges framed

He was implicated in 3 cases—the Hubli blast case (along with 2 other suspects, Liaquat and Tanveer), the APMC conspiracy case, and the case of flag burning taking place in a procession in 2007. (In 2007, in a Muslim League protest about the Gujarat genocide, a saffron flag was burnt. Jakati was nowhere in the procession.) He was charged with being a member (‘Emir’) of SIMI. An accusation was also made in Mala Maruthi police station that he had forged documents of a vehicle in order to use it in the bomb blast—though he was never taken to that police station. He was framed probably because being an automobile company employee, he could easily be shown as forging RC documents of the vehicle that was later used in the blast. When he was taken to Hubli for further interrogation, he was shown a CD of his narco confession, and was told: “you have confessed to being a part of bomb blasting conspiracy, your case will now stand”. But no case was filed in Hubli police station. He was again taken to Belgaum, to a different police station, and kept there (in chains, continuously) for 2 days. He was slapped with a new case of flag burning that happened in 2007.

After this interrogation, he was taken to various places for about one and half months (16 days in Bangalore, 4 days in Hubli, 2 days in Khade Bazaar etc.). Finally, he was remanded in judicial custody, and spent three and half years there. His trial was not taken up for one and a half years. At the end of the trial, he was acquitted in the Hubli blast case, the Maruthi case and the APMC conspiracy, but the saffron flag burning case continues. He was finally released on Nov. 9, 2011. But with regard to the flag burning case, he has still to attend court every 15 days—it is a Fast Track court.

Circumstances of arrest

HIs brother was working in Sharjah and sent him a visa to go there and take up a job (since he had the technical qualifications) in a car company where his brother was working. He went there on 11th June 2008, 2 days after the Hubli blast, and the police picked up this date to charge later that he escaped to Sharjah after setting off the blast. When he phoned home a month after working in Sharjah, his father told him that Mahantesh, Intelligence Officer at the ATC (antiterrorist cell) along with Hubli police had come to his house looking for weapons and asking what he had been doing. When he called up Mahantesh, he was told that they had detailed information about his ‘terrorist antecedents’. He was told to return to India and, after giving a statement to the police and answering some questions, he could return to Sharjah. But as soon as he landed in Mumbai on August 2, he was arrested and declared an absconder, and a suspected terrorist of LeT. Under a heavy guard of 400 policemen, he was taken to Sahara airport police station from the back door ‘to avoid the glare of the media’. There, he was first interrogated by Rakesh Maria, Head of Maharashtra ATC (who took some preliminary details about him), and then a series of police officers from Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. (This meant that his arrival was made known to police from different states). During interrogation, he was shown

pictures of other suspects and abused in the foulest language. After this initial questioning, the Belgaum police (Marihal and Nagaraj, circle inspector) came and took him by jeep to Belgaum. There, Javed Mushaffir from ATC tried to induce him to make a full confession about the Hubli blast. Javed told him that they belonged to the same community, and that if he confessed, he would be let off on minor charges. They kept saying that they had complete evidence about the blast and that he was a member of SIMI. This went on even as he kept telling them he didn’t know anything about the blast or about SIMI. Mahantesh took him to Bijapur road, and threatened to throw him out of the jeep and carry out an ‘encounter’. But since he did not get down from the jeep, he was brought back. He was taken to his house and shown his old expired passport which they said was a fake passport. The Belgaum police even lamented that if only he’d landed in Bangalore instead of Mumbai, they could have taken credit for his arrest. When he asked Raghavendra, IG of Belgaum, what crime he’d committed, the IG told him that he was a traitor to the nation. After 4 days in police custody (from 3 August to 7 Aug.), he was presented before the media as ‘Emir’ (president) of SIMI. Vijay Karnataka and Samyukta Karnataka announced that the Hubli blast case had been ‘solved’. The magistrate then transferred him to judicial custody, first to Belgaum jail and then to Hubli jail.

Conditions in police custody

He was later taken to Bangalore for 2 days for a narco analysis test, which turned out to be a horrible experience. He was administered 2 painful injections of Sodium Pantathol on his veins by Malini Harihar. He was asked to respond to questions and statements such as ‘Did you carry out the blast?’, ‘You took your friend to the site’, ‘You placed the bomb on the track’. In the final CD recording, his words ‘nahin kiya’ (‘did not do’) spoken on the tape to the question

‘did you carry out the blast?’ were recorded as ‘kiya’. The sound of the questions was resounding and the camera constantly zoomed in and out. After every narco analysis session, he used to get intense headaches, and feel heavily drugged, and fall asleep for 5-6 hours at a time. When he woke up, they would give him fruit juice.

Impact of case

His father died in early November 2011, after being bedridden for 3 years. As Head Master, he felt humiliated, and felt he could not face society, and remained house/bed bound. No one has offered Jakaati a job, nor has any one come and met him, and he has no capital to start a business. He is dependent on his younger brother in Sharjah. He solicits advertisements for a local paper informally, unofficially, from other areas where his antecedents are not known. He manages to earn about Rs 2000-2500 a month, in addition to his mother’s family pension. The Congress MLA Feroz Sait promised to help him regarding school fees for his children, but then told the management not to comply. He had to approach his brother to raise Rs 21000 towards the school fees. But now his brother is asking him to stand on his own. His previous employer studiously avoids him. He has stopped writing columns because the magazine he used to write for doesn’t accept articles from him. During his days in jail, his family burnt the file containing all his articles, thinking that he was arrested due to his writings. His family has sold jewelry worth Rs. 60000 for paying his lawyer’s fees. He has himself conducted his case for the last 3 months because his lawyer has turned mercenary. APCR has refused help. When he landed in Mumbai, he had Rs. 20,000, 5 mobile phones given by his brother for his family, an electric iron,

and 10 pairs of dresses. They were all seized by the police, and he has no means to reclaim them. “My case is over legally, but it still haunts my mind.”

Social impact of case

According to Jakaati, members of his community avoid him completely. When he was arrested, his neighbours locked up and left. Since then, they’ve been avoiding him completely. His relatives have given a letter to the police disowning him. Only his parents and his in-laws visited him in jail. Since then, he hasn’t been invited for any family functions. Even now his family friends greet him only if he does, otherwise, his interactions are limited to his wife, mother and children. Only his first daughter (now in 8th std) knows about his arrest, while his other children have been sent to their grandparents, and the news is kept from them. He has lost contact with his fellow accused who was acquitted with him. He would like those who are suffering now in jail to be helped. When S.R. Nayak, the Chairman of the SHRC commission, visited him in jail, he told Justice Nayak that mere visits are not enough and something should be done for the people in jail. In the eyes of his community, he hasn’t been acquitted. His appeal therefore to the team is that they should meet members of his community and explain his plight, and thus help end his isolation. “We are dying every day.”

 

Imthiyaz Ahmed

Personal details

Imthiaz (33) runs a grocery shop along with a pan shop (both rented) in a centrally located area of Belgaum. He lives with his family and parents and unmarried brother. His wife has studied up to 10th standard, and they have a son and a daughter (4 yrs old, born when he was in jail). His father is a retired KSRTC driver. Imthiyaz was working as Vice President in ‘All-falah Baitulmal’, a social service organisation (welfare trust registered in 2003), with 11 active

volunteers and 250 members. Funded by individual contributions from the community (especially the local masjid), it gave educational and medical assistance to poor people of all communities. It worked openly and legally, and performed services for people in emergencies

(hospital patients, transporting bodies of the dead) and attended to their urgent needs. It was closed down after his arrest since the other members feared accusations being foisted on them as well. He was also a member of the local peace committee attached to the Mala Maruthi Police Station. The committee used to intervene when there were tensions during religious festivals.

Circumstances of arrest

On 9th May 08, he was taken to the Mala Maruthi Police Station and detained there illegally for 8 days. Since the police had known him, they cajoled him to stay in jail for 4 days and then released him but required him to present himself daily for the next 4 days, even though he was only a witness in this case. They asked him about his connections with Liaquat Ali Syed (Accused no. 1, aged 33-35 yrs), who was charged with theft of a van and forgery of documents

connected with this vehicle. Ali worked in London as a security guard, and had come home on vacation to see his patients. The van belonged to Imtiaz, and he was made witness in this case, and detained for 8 days and then released. In other words, he was made the accused in the same case where he was made witness. The charge sheet mentions that he was trying to use his vehicle for the blast. The transaction concerning the sale of his van helped the police to falsely link it with the case. He didn’t know the other accused (except as nodding acquaintances) since they were from another locality. After 20 days, he was arrested again in the APMC blast conspiracy case along with 1012 others on charges of plotting a blast in Tilakwadi, Belgaum, during the MLA elections in Belgaum. The police took custody of him in the court. He told the judge trying the case that he’d no connections with the case since he knew the others only as customers. In police custody, he was not tortured but verbally abused and forced to sign several times on blank sheets of paper. Before the police produced him before the court, a police constable came and left a bag in his shop after making his father open the shop around 10 pm. Five minutes later, he was brought to his shop in a police jeep and was made to carry the bag and open it. As he was doing so, he was videographed with the bag which contained materials for making a bomb (like watch, wire, pencil cells, solder gun, torch etc). In their statement, they said that it was recovered from him. They questioned him throughout the night. Police officers had come from different

states like Maharashtra, AP, and Goa, and they asked him questions about SIMI, and where he’d been trained to make bombs. Next day, he was produced in court and sent to Hindalga Jail.

Conditions in police custody

Here, he faced different kinds of harassment. (Jakaat reports that the police in Hindalga Jail used to threaten them by saying that members of Sri Ram Sene in a neighbouring cell would attack them. One day, the police brought Sri Ram Sene men outside their cell and they shouted slogans against them with the police standing by and doing nothing.) 100 policemen headed by jail Superintendent B. Kadli descended on their cell housing SIMI suspects and carried out a brutal lathi charge. Jail superintendent D B Kadli called them traitors and when they protested to the magistrate, he didn’t even look at their bodies which bore lathi marks. Then small groups among them (8 at a time) were shifted to different jails in Karnataka. He was sent to Bangalore jail where he was kept in solitary confinement in a high security cell called ‘Andheri cell’, which was meant for people on the death row. His neighbour was Telgi. Newspapers were supplied but

all news about criminal matters were cut out. A human rights group visiting them said that they were detained illegally and they should protest. But they didn’t do so for fear that they would be tortured further. His parents were in great distress then, and his brother was studying in BBM. He was there for 1 1/2 years without trial, when their advocate Mayaboob Halli petitioned the court and had their cases transferred to Belgaum.

Account of trial

The trial started in 2010 in the court of Sessions Judge Balakrishna, who was very good to them. He said at the outset that there was no evidence and they were innocent. He put pressure on the prosecutor and completed the trial in a record time of one and a half years. He was punctilious and persistent in questioning the Public Prosecutor, the police and even their defence lawyer. On 8thth nov 2011, he acquitted all 11 of them in the APMC conspiracy case for want of evidence. Imthiaz had been in jail for a total of three and a half years.

Cases of others

All the accused in Belgaum bomb blast case have been acquitted. Out of this 6 are in Karnataka jails (on Hubli conspiracy case), and the other 12 in Gujarat. There are some who have cases filed against them in Gujarat on offences alleged to have been committed on the same dates when they were undertrials in Belgaum. Some have so many cases against them that the trials may run till the end of their life time. The police have been questioning him a few times, and now tell him that they had to proceed against him due to pressure from higherups. According to Jakaat, the acquitted are often unwilling to talk to human rights groups since they have suffered enough and do now wish to have any further trouble from the police. Human right groups have been meeting them and recording their observations, but it has not brought any effective change in their condition.

Social Impact

During his time in jail, his father and younger brother got isolated in the community. His brother had to discontinue his BBM due to running around for his sake. He is now working in a sales position in a private company, without having completed his degree. Even their relatives have boycotted him, and they don’t get invited to family functions. His in-laws were also afraid, though they were very supportive. His wife delivered a girl child when he was in jail; when he was released 3 years later, she couldn’t recognize him and refused to come to him. Their neighbours, while not hostile, are indifferent.

After his release he sold his wife’s jewellery and used it to reopen the shop. But their customers have slowly drifted away from the shop which his father is now looking after. Members of the welfare trust got scared and didn’t visit him in jail. The trust was closed down due to fears about what might happen to it if they continued with its activities.

Part 1: Report on Framing of Muslim Youth in Karnataka

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