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Mecca Masjid blast: All accused acquitted

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Hyderabad, Apr 16: A special court here on Monday acquitted right-wing ideologue and former RSS member Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, ruling that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.

The special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found fault with the prosecution for not presenting satisfactory evidence. The NIA is likely to move the High Court, challenging the acquittal

On May 18, 2007, a powerful blast ripped through the historic Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers, killing nine people and injured 58 others. Five others were killed in the police firing during the violence that followed soon after the blast. A pipe-bomb triggered by a mobile phone timer went off near the ablution spot of the 17th-century mosque located close to the iconic Charminar.

 

After initial investigation by the local police, the case was transferred to the CBI which filed a chargesheet. The NIA took over the case from the CBI in 2011.

Eight people belonging to right-wing organisations, including Aseemanand, Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharatbhai and Rajender Chowdhary, were charged by the NIA in the blast case. The court, however, delivered its verdict with regard to the five accused. One accused, Sunil Joshi, was murdered in December, 2007, during the course of investigation while two others—Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra from Madhya Pradesh—are still at large.

A total of 226 witnesses were examined during the trial and as many as 411 documents exhibited. Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar are out on bail, while three others are in the Central Prison in Hyderabad.

In March last year, Aseemanand was also acquitted in the Ajmer blast. He is also on trial for the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing.

The accused in the sensational Mecca Masjid blast case are allegedly linked to a fringe Hindu organisation called Abhinav Bharat.

Initially, the Hyderabad police who investigated the case suspected the involvement of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI), a fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The police had picked up more than 90 Muslim youth for interrogation and 21 of them were charge-sheeted.

The police blamed Bilal, linked to HuJI, as the mastermind behind the terror attack. He was later killed in an encounter. After a trial, the Nampally criminal courts acquitted all the accused in January, 2009, for lack of evidence. Subsequently, the Central Government transferred the case to the CBI. Later, the case was handed over to the NIA in 2011.

Meanwhile, reacting to the court’s verdict, Hyderabad MP and president of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi said that the majority of witnesses in the case had turned hostile after June 2014. “The NIA did not pursue the case as it was expected from them. The NIA is guided by the political masters. It is a deaf and blind parrot. Our fight against terrorism is weakened after today’s acquittal,” he said.

In May, 2010, the CBI had said that the Mecca Masjid blast and the 2008 Ajmer Dargah blast were “linked, going by the nature of phone timer devices, explosives and the bomb used and common identity proof used to obtain SIM cards.”

On November 19, 2010, Swami Aseemanand, who had been on the run since 2008, was arrested from Haridwar for his alleged role in the blast. He had submitted a signed declaration that he, and several members of the Abhinav Bharat, had conspired and executed the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid.


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SHO injured in Anantnag attack succumbs at AIIMS

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Srinagar, Jun 16: The Station House Officer of the police station Sadr in Anantnag succumbed on Sunday, four days after he had received critical injuries in a militant attack in the town.

The slain officer Arshad Ahmad Khan was critically injured after militants attacked a joint party of CRPF and police at a bus stand in Anantnag on June 12.

In the attack, five paramilitary troopers and a militant were killed and four other security forces personnel including the Station House Officer were injured in the attack. Besides, a girl Snober (18) daughter of Ashraf Malik of Danter also sustained a bullet wound in her leg.

 

Khan according to reports was being operated in Srinagar’s SKIMS hospital. However, he was flown to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital on Sunday where he succumbed to injuries.

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Malik instrumental in bringing JRL together: NIA

Claims Aalam revealed ‘rift between separatists on funds’

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New Delhi, Jun 16: National Investigating Agency (NIA) Sunday said that the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front (JKLF) chairman Yasin Malik was instrumental in bringing the Hurriyat (G) chairman Syed Ali Geelani and Hurriyat (M) chairman Mirwaiz Umar Farooq together to spearhead the 2016 agitation in the State of Jammu and Kashmir.

“Yasin Malik was instrumental in bringing together the disparate factions of Hurriyat and formed Joint Resistance Leadership (JRL) which spear headed the 2016 agitation in Kashmir,” NIA said in a press statement.

It said that the JRL issued protest calendars leading to economic shutdown for over four months and also caused death/injuries to civilians and security forces in the valley.

 

“Yasin Malik admitted that the JRL and Hurriyat Conference Geelani Group collected funds from business community as well as certain other sources and ensured that economic shut down and violent protests continue to disrupt the daily life of common citizens in the valley,” the NIA said in the statement.

It said that Muslim League chairman Masarat Aalam Bhat revealed in the investigation that Pakistan based agents route funds through hawala operators which were transferred to the separatists including Syed Ali Geelani.

“Aalam said there are rifts in the Hurriyat regarding collection/use of funds,” it said.

The NIA said leader of Duktaran-e-Milat, Asiya Andrabi, was grilled by it about the educational expenses of her son in Malaysia incurred by Zahoor Watali, who was arrested in the alleged funding case.

“During interrogation, Asiya Andrabi admitted that she had been collecting funds and donations from foreign sources and Duktaran-e-Milat had been organising protests by Muslim women in the valley,” it claimed.

The NIA has already approached the relevant authorities for providing evidence relating to certain bank accounts used by Asiya Andrabi’s son Mohammad bin Qasim while he was in the university, it said.

Another separatist leader, Shabbir Shah, had to face some tough time when he was confronted about his businesses, including a hotel in Pahalgam which is allegedly funded through foreign funds received by him from Pakistan, the statement said.

“During the custodial interrogation, Shabir Shah was confronted with evidence relating to transfer of money by Pakistan-based agents and representatives of APHC (All Parties Hurriyat Conference) factions to parties affiliated to Hurriyat in J and K. He was also confronted about his investments in various hotels and businesses in Pahalgam, properties in Jammu, Srinagar and Anantnag,” the NIA said.

The NIA had registered a case in May, 2017 against belonging to Jammat ud Dawah, Duktaran-e-Millat, Lashkar-e-Taiba, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen and other separatist leaders in the state for raising, receiving and collecting funds to fuel separatist and terrorist activities and entering into a larger conspiracy for causing disruption in Kashmir Valley and for waging war against India.

The agency has so far charge-sheeted 13 accused, including leader of Jammat-ud Dawah Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, head of Hizb-ul-Mujahideen Syed Salahuddin, seven separatist leaders, two hawala conduits and some stone-pelters.

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Have busted ‘Shuara-e-Zindan’ inside jails: Police

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Srinagar, Jun 16: The Jammu and Kashmir Police has busted ‘Shuara-e-Zindan’ (supreme council for jail), a term used by militants for governance inside prisons, and restored the prison manual completely, officials said here.

After the escape of Naveed Jatt, a Lashkar-e-Taiba militant, last February, the Jammu and Kashmir prison department under the leadership of Dilbagh Singh took a series of measures to “sanitise” prisons, including shifting all hardcore militants from the Srinagar Central Jail.

“A complete analysis of the prisoners was carried out and the message was loud and clear that the hold of terrorists inside the prison needs to be broken and rule of law needs to be implemented,” says Singh, who recently relinquished the post of Director General of Prisons, said.

 

However, he did not elaborate further on the measures carried out and said “we have only ensured that hardened militants and separatists are segregated from those who are first-timers and have a scope of improvement.”

However, the officials in the state prison department said after Singh took charge, raids and searches were carried out regularly and militants were shifted to other jails in Jammu and Udhampur.

Two cases were registered at Rainawari police station which includes the one where militants were operating “Shaura-e-Zindan” inside the jail which used to decide allotment of barracks and other amenities to the prisoners, the officials said.

The ‘Shaura-e-Zindan’ used to provide facilities to the prisoners based on their experience in the field of militancy, which includes food of their choice and other facilities, they said, adding Ashiq Hussain Faktoo, serving life sentence, was the supreme commander of this group.

Now, after the crackdown and repeated searches, all private kitchens operating inside the jail premises, have been shut and all inmates queue up to the common ‘langar’ where they are served food, they said.

There was a report in December 2017 that “sermons are given on Jehad…The basic tenets of religion are overlooked and emphasis is laid on radical aspects. Such religious sermons have a deep psychological impact on inmates and youths in particular who develop inclination towards joining militancy or getting recruited as overground workers (for militants).”

It said the jail, which is expected to act as a correctional facility, is “instead being used as a place of religious indoctrination and militant recruitment”.

“It is being observed that even petty criminal who spend some time in jails are today coming out as highly indoctrinated individuals with religious motivation to support or even join militant ranks,” it said. However, Singh ensured that there is a segregation of prisoners and people arrested for charges under terrorism or separatism are treated with higher degree of caution and separated from inmates arrested for petty crimes.

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