Thursday, November 17, 2011

‘My father is not a conspirator’


Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel | TNN

“All our relatives have gathered back home in Malegaon to welcome my son. We are just waiting to take him back as soon as he comes out,” said Iqbal Makhdoomi, a senior citizen and father of Dr Farog Makhdoomi, waiting for the gates of the Arthur Road jail to open up on Wednesday.

His son was one of the seven 2006 Malegaon blasts accused who walked out of the Arthur Road and Byculla prisons on Wednesday after being granted bail on November 5.

The seven men came out of the two jails around 5.30pm, much to the delight and relief of the scores of people who had gathered outside. The area around the Arthur Road jail was particularly crowded, with family members of the accused jostling for space with media personnel and curious passersby.

The families had been persistently making the 300-km trip from Malegaon to Mumbai to attend court hearings, never losing faith. On Wednesday, too, that persistence showed as the 63-year-old Iqbal waited outside the jail. Iqbal, a retired schoolteacher, has spent most of his of provident fund money and pension fighting for his son’s release.

Taking time off from school, 13-year-old Osama, who was only eight when his father Raees Ahmed was arrested in 2006, jumped with joy on seeing his father and hugged him. “Our family members have been offering namaaz since morning and my mother has cooked lots and lots of special food.” “No one in our hometown sees my father as a conspirator and I believe he has been falsely implicated by the police,” he added.

Jamil Masiullah, brother of Shabbir Ahmed, said: “We have renovated our house, changed carpets and installed huge lights. We are excited and very happy.”
Fighting off tears, Masood Ahmed, brother of another accused, Dr Salman Farsi, said: “The residents of our town stood by us. We are thankful to the people of Malegaon.”

The Times of India, November 17,2011

5 yrs on, 7 walk out of jail

FREE FOR NOW, BUT LONG WAY TO GO: We Want Our Dignity & Five Years Back, Say 2006 Malegaon Blasts Accused After Being Released On Bail

Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel | TNN

Wednesday, 5.30pm. Seven men walk out of two Mumbai jails after having spent five years in dark, dingy cells. Free for now, the seven are greeted with hugs, tears, smiles and sweets, as the wait finally ends for them as well as the dozens of people who have lined up to meet them outside the prison gates.

The seven, arrested in 2006 after being accused of planning and executing the Malegaon serial bomb blasts, were recently granted bail by a MCOCA court. “We were framed. We want our dignity and five years back,” a statement by the released men said. The anger at the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) was also evident, with the seven men later alleging that the agency had been biased in its probe.

On September 8, 2006, four bombs went off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297.

On Wednesday, six of the accused—Salman Farsi, Mohammed Zahid, Raees Ali, Shabbir Masiullah, Noor-ul-Huda and Dr Farog Makhdoomi—were released from the Arthur Road prison, while Abrar Ahmed stepped out of the Byculla jail.

Two other persons—Mohd Ali Shaikh and Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai—were also granted bail by the MCOCA court, but they would continue to remain behind bars as they are also accused in the 11/7 serial train blasts.

Following their release, all seven men were keen to reach home. But they also knew that the battle was far from over. “I am happy that we have been released. But I will find peace only after I am discharged from the case,” said Farsi, tears in his eyes.

“We want our dignity back. We want an answer as to why the police framed us,” maintained Raees Ali. Zahid said, “The police showed me as a planter, but I was 500 km away from Malegaon. The truth is coming out now.”

“I will be relieved when we are acquitted,” said Masiullah. One of the key questions raised was regarding the ATS’s claims on the involvement of Zahid, an imam from a Yavatmal mosque. The ATS said he planted a bomb in Malegaon and left for Yavatmal the same day. “The distance between the two towns is around 1,000 km. How can you travel 1,000 km in just 12 hours on a state transport bus? The ATS said Zahid was in Malegaon that day and planted the bomb, while more than 250 Yavatmal residents filed affidavits saying Zahid was in Yavatmal on September 8, the day of the blasts,” argued a resident.

Around 500 residents of Malegaon, including politicians, religious leaders, activists, friends and family members of the accused, had been waiting outside the jails, especially Arthur Road, since Wednesday morning. The area around Arthur Road jail witnessed traffic snarls after Jamiat Ulama-E-Maharashtra members assembled to welcome the freed men. Personnel from the N M Joshi Marg police station and the crime branch were called in for bandobast duty even as two armoured vehicles were stationed outside the jail.

Soon after their release, the seven men were taken to the jamiat’s office near Bhendi Bazar. “I am thankful to Allah for this success,” said Gulzar Azmi, general secretary, of the jamiat’s legal cell. “Innocent youths were framed by the ATS and kept in prison for five years.” He also announced that compensation would be sought for the time spent behind bars.

The ATS, then headed by Krish Pal Raghuvanshi, had initially investigated the case and the CBI later took over the probe. The ATS had arrested the nine men claiming that they belonged to the banned SIMI and aided a Pakistani in executing the blasts. The case was transferred to the National Investigation Agency after the probe took a dramatic turn following Swami Aseemanand’s confession that a saffron group was behind the blasts.

The jamiat said it was waiting for the NIA’s progress report.
Minority affairs minister Arif Naseem Khan and Malegaon’s Kul Jamaati Tanzeem had been meeting P Chidambaram and Sonia Gandhi, demanding the release of the nine accused.

BLASTS & AFTER SEPT 8, 2006 | Four RDX bombs go off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297

DEC 21, 2006 |
ATS files a 4,500-page chargesheet. Case is handed over to CBI the same day
NOV 5, 2011 | MCOCA court grants bail to nine accused
NOV 16, 2011 | Seven walk free, while two others remain in jail as they are accused in 11/7 blasts

Noor-ul-Huda 24
Shabbir Masiullah 34
Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali 35
Salman Farsi 40
Farog Makhdoomi 40
Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majeed 35
Abrar Ahmed Saeed 35

Mohd Ali Shaikh 45 and Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai 40
*Both were earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case

The Times of India, November 17, 2011

Monday, November 14, 2011

RTI: ATS cop sent money to Malegaon blast accused

Mateen Hafeez TNN

A police constable attached to the Nashik unit of the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) had sent money on three occasions to one of the accused in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts in Byculla jail, a RTI query showed. The blast accused, Abrar Ahmed, had turned approver when he received the money but later turned hostile.
Gulzar Azmi, general secretary (legal cell), Jamiat-ul-Ulema, a socio-religious organization, had filed the RTI. In their reply, Byculla jail authorities said that constable Sadashiv Abhimanyu Patil had sent Rs 1,000 each three times between August and November 2008. The trial concerning the blasts that killed 31 people is underway in court.

The Byculla jail authorities in their reply mentioned Patil’s address as 14/501, police headquarters, Gangapur Road, Nashik, from where the money order was sent to the blast accused. Patil disconnected the telephone line when this correspondent disclosed his identity.

Ahmed’s bro complained to court about constable
The state antiterrorism squad’s Nashik unit had investigated the Malegaon blasts case initially and submitted a chargesheet against nine accused. A CBI team which took over the probe also endorsed the ATS findings.

Following petitions by Malegaon residents, another CBI team began the probe afresh and indicated that those arrested may not be involved. By then the National Investigating Agency (NIA) took over and recently told the court that it has no objection in granting them bail.

The court ordered their release on November 5 once they fulfilled the bail conditions. Abrar Ahmed, now 42, had mysteriously disappeared after the September 8, 2006 bomb blasts outside a mosque and in a residential area. Four bombs, made of RDX, were planted on bicycles in Malegaon. After his disappearance, Ahmed’s elder brother, advocate Jaleel Ansari, filed a habeas corpus plea in the special MCOCA court. On the court’s order, the Nashik police produced Ahmed before the court in December 2006. Ahmed, who owned a battery and inverter shop, is accused of conspiracy, assembling and planting the bombs.

Abrar, in an affidavit, in 2009, alleged that he was offered lakhs of rupees to become an approver. “As family members, Ahmed’s relatives would send money to him through money order. But why was a constable, attached to the ATS sending money? For the ATS Ahmed was a terror suspect, so why would the police send money to a man who has been termed as a conspirator, a bomb maker and a planter? A thorough inquiry should be done in this matter to find out who exactly was behind this?” said Azmi, the RTI applicant.

The then ATS chief, K P Raghuvanshi, said he wasn’t aware of the development.
Advocate Ansari said he had earlier complained to the court about Patil. “This constable would come to meet my brother in jail. After Ahmed turned hostile, Patil met him in jail and threatened him with dire consequences.”
He added, “After I complained to the court, an inquiry was set up and the jail authorities were instructed not to allow Patil to meet Ahmed,” said Ansari.
A senior police officer said he was not aware about the outcome of this inquiry.

The Times of India, November 14, 2011

Saturday, November 12, 2011

2 accused stay in custody over train blasts case


S Ahmed Ali & Mateen Hafeez TNN

Although the nine suspects arrested in connection with the 2006 Malegaon blast case were granted bail by the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) earlier this week, the Mumbai crime branch on Friday said two of the suspects — Mohammed Ali Aslam Shaikh Aziz and Asif Khan —would remain in custody as they are wanted in another terror related case. Ali and Khan are also accused in the 11\7 Mumbai serial train blasts case.

Ali is an active member of SIMI and in 2005 and 2006, had sent few SIMI members to Pakistan for arms training. “We had arrested two persons Shabbir Mushirullah and Nafiz Ahmed Ansari, residents of Malegaon in Nashik and Govandi in Eastern suburbs in this case. Moreover, they were associates of Indian Mujaheedin founder member Riyaz Bhatkal,” said the police.

The Times of India, November 12,2 011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Lawyers of accused made 60 trips to court in 5 years

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

: “This was our 60th trip to the Mumbai court. Each time we came to the city, we hoped we will be successful in getting the accused out of jail,” said advocate Nihal Ansari, a lawyer in the legal cell of Jamiat-ul-Ulema (Maharashtra) on Saturday after the nine youths arrested in the 2006 Malegaon blasts case got bail.

The Jamiat, the Malegaon Kul Jamaati Tanzeem, an NGO, and the residents of Malegaon had been closely following the blasts case. “We stood united and proved the ATS theory wrong,” said Irfana Hamdani, another lawyer. The lawyers played a major role in securing bail for the nine youth, who they insisted had no role to play in the blasts.

“To prove our point, we had compiled a 380-page factfinding report and submitted it to the first CBI team. However, the CBI did not consider it. Later, we submitted the report to Union home minster P Chidambaram and the NIA. The NIA has been taking our help since it took over the probe,” said advocate S S Shaikh.

Jaleel Ahmed, an advocate and brother of one of the accused, Abrar Ahmed, said his son was kidnapped and beaten up by the ATS in 2009. “We have registered a case with the Nagpada police against the police personnel,” said Jaleel.

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

Are loopholes in ATS investigation showing?

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

The bail granted to nine Malegaon youth has left the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) red-faced. Malegaon residents have, over the course of the case, cast doubts over the ATS probe.

The ATS had invoked MCOCA against these accused. “The police had 180 days to file a chargesheet. The agency did it in just 54 days. We don’t understand why the ATS was in a hurry to file it earlier. This raises serious questions on their probe,” said Maulana Abdul Qayyum, a member of Jamiat-ul-Ulema, which bore the legal expenses.

Abdul Malik Bakra, an activist, said the ATS did not even submit the complete forensic and voice sample test reports along with the chargesheet.

K P Raghuvanshi, who was the then ATS chief, was not available for comment.

One of the questions raised is regarding ATS’ claims about involvement of Mohammed Zahid, an imam from a Yavatmal mosque. The ATS said he planted a bomb in Malegaon and left for Yavatmal the same day. “The distance between the two towns is around 1,000 km. How can you travel 1,000 km in just 12 hours in a state transport bus? The ATS said Zahid was in Malegaon on that day and planted the bomb, while more than 250 Yavatmal residents filed affidavits saying Zahid was in Yavatmal on September 8, the day of the blasts,” said a resident.

Thirdly, the police said a Pakistani national, Muzammil, had come to Malegaon and assembled the bombs. But ATS could not provide further information on his visit. Police said that 45 bombs were manufactured in Malegaon. “Surprisingly, they could not recover a single bomb,” another activist said.

Moreover, when the Malegaon blasts took place, Shabbir Masiullah, one of the arrested accused, was already in Mumbai police’s custody, residents said.


September 8, 2006
| Four RDX bombs went off in Malegaon, killing 31 people and injuring 297. The bombs were planted on bicycles and exploded between 1.45pm and 1.55pm. The first three went off outside Hameediya mosque in Bada Qabrastan and the fourth exploded at Mushawerat Chowk in central Malegaon. The bombs contained RDX, ammonium nitrate, nitrite and oil fuel.

December 21, 2006 | The ATS filed a 4,500-page chargesheet against the suspects. The case was handed over to the CBI the same day

Noor-ul-Huda (24)
Occupation | Labourer Charge | Bomb planter at the mosque

Shabbir Masiullah (34) Occupation | Owner of a battery shop Charge | Conspirator

Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali (35) Occupation | Masiullah’s brother-in-law, partner in Masiullah’s battery unit Charge | Conspirator and bomb planter

Salman Farsi (40) Occupation | Unani doctor Charge | Conspirator

Farogh Makhdoomi (40) Occupation | Unani doctor Charge | Conspirator

Mohd Ali Shaikh (45), earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case Occupation | A Govandi resident, labourer Charge | Supplying RDX to Malegaon accused

Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai (40), earlier arrested in the 11/7 train blasts case Occupation | A mechanical engineer from Jalgaon Charge | Supplying RDX

Mohd Zahid Abdul Majeed (35) Occupation | Imam Charge | Planter

Abrar Ahmed Saeed (35) Occupation | Powerloom unit owner Charge | Planter

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

2006 Malegaon blasts: Bail for all 9 accused

MOMENT OF JOY: Activists and lawyers celebrate after the nine blasts accused get bail on Saturday

Mateen Hafeez & Rebecca Samervel TNN

Nine persons accused in the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts that left 31 dead got bail on Saturday. The Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad had arrested them claiming that they belonged to the banned SIMI and aided a Pakistani in executing the attacks. The National Investigation Agency (NIA), which took over the probe after Swami Aseemanand’s confession that a saffron group was behind the blasts, did not oppose bail.

NIA reviewed evidence after Swami confessed
Although nine people have been granted bail for the 2006 Malegaon blasts, two of the nine accused, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam Shaikh and Asif Khan, will remain in custody because they are also accused in the 11/7 Mumbai train blasts case.

Special judge Yatin Shinde of the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 50,000 each and asked the nine to furnish one or more surety. Defence lawyers requested that they be allowed to furnish cash surety in a bid to hasten their release in time for Eid on Monday. The judge declined this request.

The ATS had charged the nine with helping a Pakistani, Muzammil, in carrying out the blasts. They had said Muzammil had travelled
to Malegaon with RDX to assemble the bombs, three of which were planted on the premises of the Hameediya mosque and a fourth at Mushawerat chowk. The bombs went off late in the evening on September 8, 2006, when Muslims had gathered at cemeteries for Shab-e-Baarat prayers, killing 31 and injuring 297.

“In all fairness, in the interest of justice after due deliberation a decision was taken on the basis of the facts and circumstances not to oppose the bail application of all nine persons,” special public prosecutor Rohini Salian told the court on behalf of the NIA.

The NIA did not file a report in the court, saying investigations were not over yet. However, it submitted that after the revelations by rightwinger Swami Aseemanand, who was arrested in the Mecca Masjid blast case, it had reviewed the evidence collected by previous investigating agencies—the ATS and CBI—and also collected fresh documentary and oral evidence.

The 2006 blasts case was first investigated by the ATS followed by the CBI. Both accused the nine youngsters—Noor-ul-Huda (24), Shabbir Masiullah (34), Raees Ahmed Rajjab Ali (35), unani doctors Salman Farsi and Farog Makhdoomi, Mohammed Ali, Jalgaon mechanical engineer Asif Bashir Khan alias Junai, Mohammed Zahid Abdul Majeed, and Abrar Ahmed Saeed (35)—of the blasts. Following Aseemanand’s confession about his associates engineering the attacks, a second CBI team looked into the case and said the accused were not involved. Now, the NIA is pursuing this theory.

Since the saffron angle cropped up, residents of Malegaon have been meeting the Prime Minister, the Union home minister and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi to emphasize that the youths had been framed. “It’s an Eid gift for all of us,” said Maulana Abdul Hameed Azhari of Malegaon after the bail order.

The township celebrated the news with crackers. “The ATS had wrongly booked these boys and we have been agitating for the past five years,” said S S Shaikh, a senior advocate.

The Times of India, November 6, 2011

Friday, November 4, 2011

Sadhvi kin to approach court for her safety in jail

Mateen Hafeez | TNN

A relative of the 2008 Malegaon bomb blast suspect, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, will approach the special MCOCA court on Friday to demand protection for her at the Byculla women’s prison. This comes after a suspected Nigerian female drug peddler allegedly abused Thakur and fought with her jail mate.

The application will be moved by advocate Ganesh Sovani on behalf of Thakur’s brother in-law, Bhagwan Bhai Jha. Thakur has been in jail since November 3, 2008. Jha’s application states that African female undertrials lodged in the same jail had created a ruckus on the premises and had gheraoed Thakur and manhandled her jail inmate Rita Jaiswal on October 27. It added that Thakur was repeatedly abused and heckled as well.

The application further stated that when the matter was reported to the jail authorities, even they could not overpower over the African inmates, who were physically much stronger than them. “If the jail authorities send police personnel to sort out the issue, then these African female undertrials try to undress themselves and scream and shout,” Jha stated in the application.

Jha believes that the court may seek a report from the superintendent of Byculla Jail about the incident that took place on October 27, and direct jail authorities to take appropriate steps for the security of Thakur and Jaiswal. The application further stated that a year-and-a-half ago, an undertrial had physically assaulted Thakur.

Assault, fighting and brawls among the jail inmates is not a new thing in city prisons. In April this year, Maria Sussairaj— who was arrested for TV executive Neeraj Grover’s murder—had entered into a scuffle with a South African female drug peddler inside the Byculla prison. The woman constable who intervened was injured. Maria was later acquitted by the court in the murder case.

Sources from the jail said a routine search of all the inmates was on. This practice is carried out in all barracks and cells in jails across Maharashtra. Maria was talking to some other inmate when the South African inmate allegedly pushed her. They had a heated argument before they caught hold of each other, said the source.

The Times of India, November 4, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

‘NIA won’t oppose bail for accused’


Mateen Hafeez TNN

Union home minister P Chidambaram on Monday announced that the National Investigation Agency (NIA) will not oppose the bail plea of the nine accused arrested in the 2006 Malegaon bomb blasts case.

Meanwhile, NIA officials on Monday informed the special MCOCA court in Mumbai that it would file additional chargesheets against the nine accused on November 4. It will also file its statement on the same day on the bail application of the accused, all suspected SIMI members. “As far as the NIA is concerned, they are not opposing the bail. Whether the bail will be granted or not, it is not for me to say,” Chidambaram told reporters. Asked whether the move not to oppose the bail meant that the nine people arrested by the ATS were innocent, Chidambaram said, “No, until anyother person who is involved is actually found and chargesheeted and until the old chargesheet is revised, we can’t come to any conclusion. The investigation is covering the other directions as well.”

He added, “The NIA has concluded that it is no longer necessary to keep them in judicial custody and, therefore, the NIA will not oppose the bail.” All the accused are in Arthur Road prison since their arrest in 2006.

MCOCA judge Y D Shinde adjourned the hearing till November 19. After Swami Aseemanand’s confession, which pointed to a right-wing group’s involvement, the accused filed bail pleas. Aseemanand was arrested for his alleged role in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blasts. “From the confession, it is clear that those responsible for the 2006 Malegaon blasts are persons far removed from the current accused,” they said in the bail plea.

The Times of India, November 1, 2011