Thursday, 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

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