Focus

Accused convicted despite loopholes and inconsistencies in 2006 blast case

By Bilal Bhat

New Delhi: On 11 September, 12 persons were convicted for their involvement in the 2006 serial blasts in Mumbai trains that killed 189 persons. The trial has been on now for the last nine years. The chargesheet filed by the Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) in November 2006 had named 30 people which included 17 Indians and 13 Pakistani nationals. However, the agency could arrest only 13 Indians.

Now 12 of the 13 accused have been convicted while one person, Abdul Shaikh, has been acquitted. The accused convicted by the court are: Faisal Shaikh, Ali Bashir Khan, Mohammad Ali, Majid Shafi, Sajid Ansari, Kamal Ansari, Ehtesham Siddiqi, Zameer Shaikh, Sohail Shaikh, Muzammil Shaikh, Tanvir Ansari and Naved Hussain. The accused were convicted under the stringent Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA).

2006 blasts background

Seven blasts took place in crowded Mumbai local trains in the evening of 11 July, 2006 killing 189 persons and injuring over 820. The blasts took place at Mahim and Matunga in central Mumbai and at Khar, Bandra, Jogeshwari, Mira Road and at Borivli in the northern suburbs. All the blasts took place on the Western Railways line of the city’s suburban rail network.

The blasts were allegedly engineered using a mixture of RDX and ammonium nitrate. The explosive mixture was allegedly packed into seven bags which were placed in trains leaving from Churchgate in south Mumbai for the suburbs. All the bombs were planted in the first class coaches of the trains.
 
The accused and the alleged plot
The Maharashtra ATS had arrested 13 persons saying they were linked with Lashkar-e Toiba terror group and the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI). One of the accused, said to be a Pakistani, allegedly died in the blasts. Police claimed the rest of the Pakistanis managed to flee to Pakistan. Police said that the bombs were assembled at Mohammed Ali’s house by the accused along with Pakistani nationals.

Inconsistencies and loopholes  

“Pressure cookers”: The first controversy came while announcing the arrests in the case in 2006, the then police commissioner AN Roy said that the bombs used in the blasts were packed into pressure cookers which were then planted on the trains.

Surprisingly, the “pressure cooker” theory was later abandoned in the chargesheet. The police justified its absence saying that they had mentioned “household items” in the chargesheet. But at the end of the trial, the special public prosecutor told the court that pressure cookers “could have been used”. None of the shopkeepers from where the pressure cookers were allegedly bought were examined by the prosecution during the trial.

Confessions through torture: The “evidence” used in the case is mainly confessions extracted through inhuman torture. The accused in the case have blamed the police of torture in order to extract confessions which are admissible as evidence under MCOCA. Two of the accused filed an application before the court accusing the police of torture. Gulail.com had released interviews with some of the accused using hidden cameras in which the Mumbai Police was accused of torture. Gulail.com has exposed the role of the Maharashtra ATS in framing 13 innocent Muslim men by forcing them to sign confessional statements through the use of torture. Gulail.com spoke to these men and found that the ATS coerced them to make statements that were recorded, edited and strung together to appear devious and incriminating.

Further astonishing revelations Gualil.com made came from replies to RTIs which exposed the lies of police witnesses. The investigation by Gulail.com exposes the false implication of innocents and disempowered Muslims in crimes they never committed. It lays bare the sinister and elaborate conspiracy of the Maharashtra ATS of manufacturing bogus evidence, planting explosives in the houses of innocents and dressing up informers as eyewitnesses. It shows that the Maharashtra ATS’s investigation was guided by a deep-rooted and extreme prejudice against the Muslims. (To read full details of torture with illustrations, visit http://www.milligazette.com/news/140-my-75-days-of-horror-in-the-hands-of-anti-terror-squad)
 
Members of Indian Mujahideen or not?
In 2008, the Mumbai police claimed to have confessions from three members of the terror group “Indian Mujahideen,” who said they had carried out the blasts. Sadiq Shaikh, Arif Shaikh and Mohammed Saif claimed that the explosives had been procured by Indian Mujahideen chief Riyaz Bhatkal. The bombs were allegedly assembled at a house in Sewri before they were placed on trains. Bhatkal, who was later arrested, claimed that the blasts were carried out by the group to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots. Bhatkal allegedly claimed that explosives were smuggled from Karachi into India. The explosives were then allegedly taken to Azamgarh and later transported to Mumbai by two persons.  The ATS, however, stuck to its stand on the 13 accused and did not include the alleged Indian Mujahideen as accused in the case.

Call data records

The accused have claimed that call data records for many of them punch holes in the police theory about the blasts. The defence has shown call data records indicate that four of the accused were nowhere near where the police claimed they were.

ATS had claimed that SIMI members placed bombs in five trains but it is yet to clarify who placed bombs in the rest two trains?  It also claimed that one Pakistani was accompanying each Indian who placed the bombs in the trains but to date it has failed to identify any single Pakistani, how they entered India and how they exited. ATS chief Raghuvanshi had claimed that the bombs were fabricated in a 100 sq. ft. room in Govandi but when Mumbai crime branch arrested over 20 Muslim youth, it had claimed that they planted bombs in Mumbain trains.  

Mysteries death of ACP Vinod Bhat and murder of defence lawyer Shahid Azmi

Mystery still shrouds the death of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ATS) Vinod Bhat, who was run over by a local train near Dadar station in the night of 28 August, 2006. While his colleagues had said Vinod had committed suicide, there was no strong evidence in support of their statements. On the contrary, the accused Ehtisham Siddiqi said in his submission to the court in November, 2006 that Bhat was a respectable ATS officer who met him twice and had told him that he had read various statements and gone through the investigation reports and papers of the case. Bhat had said that Ehtisham and all other accused are innocent. He was pressurised by his superior officers to falsely implicate them and others in the said case. He had specifically said that ATS chief P K Raghuvanshi and A N Roy, Commissioner of Police Mumbai, were pressurising him to implicate all of them in the said case, because they were not getting the culprits and were under pressure to show results. Ehtisham said ATS officers had killed Bhat because he was not cooperating with them to falsely implicate the accused in the case.

Another mysterious murder was that of the defence lawyer Shahid Azmi. During the initial proceedings of this case, advocate Shahid Azmi had told the court that he has received a threat to his life because he has filed vakalatnama for the accused in the 7/11 bomb blast case before the Special Judge M R Bhatkar. According to an order issued on Azmi’s application, the court had recorded that an anonymous caller had told Azmi to withdraw from this case within 72 hours. Azmi had told the court that his routine and details of his movements were being watched at the behest of the notorious gangster Ravi Pujari. Azmi had told the court that he has lodged a complaint with senior inspector of Kurla police station and has requested adequate protection and security to prevent any attack on him. Shahid Azmi was shot dead by four assailants in his office in Kurla on 11 February 2010. Ironically, on 23 July 2012, the Bombay High Court granted bail to one of the accused, Vinod Vichare, against a personal bond of Rs 50,000 stating he was not “shown to be present” during the assassination. Vichare had already spent two years in jail, ever since he was held for the possession of one of the four revolvers given to Bharat Nepali. In a 2007 interview with Rediff News, Azmi had accused the Intelligence Bureau (IB) of perpetrating the 2006 Mumbai train bombings. When asked as to why IB would indulge in such acts against national interest, he said it was to stereotype Muslims and prepare for stringent laws.      

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 October 2015 on page no. 1

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