#India- Government eavesdropping ‘chilling’, says rights group #CMS #Monitoring


Agence France Presse | Updated: June 07, 2013 17:03 IST

 Indian government eavesdropping 'chilling', says rights group
New DelhiThe Indian government‘s move to implement blanket eavesdropping of online activities, telephone calls and text messages is “chilling”, Human Rights Watch said today as controversy raged in the US about Internet surveillance.The Central Monitoring System was announced in parliament late last year and is a so-called “single window” allowing Indian state bodies such as the National Investigation Agency or tax authorities to monitor communications.

New York-based Human Rights Watch demanded a full public debate about “the intended use of the system before proceeding” as the monitoring was created without parliamentary approval.

The Indian surveillance comes as reports emerged that the US National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been tapping into the servers of Google, Yahoo!, Facebook and six other top US Internet companies, stirring a major row in the United States.

The US White House defended the clandestine data collection as a critical tool for preventing “the threat posed by terrorists” and said it was only targeting foreigners, not Americans.

In December 2012, the Indian government said in a statement its monitoring system would “lawfully intercept Internet and telephone services”.

A government spokesman declined to comment Wednesday on media reports that the government had begun rolling out the system.

Human Rights Watch said clear laws were needed to ensure that increased surveillance of phones and the Internet does not undermine rights to privacy and free expression.

“The Indian government’s centralised monitoring is chilling, given its reckless and irresponsible use of the sedition and Internet laws,” said Cynthia Wong, senior Internet researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Indian activists have raised concerns that the monitoring will inhibit them from expressing their opinions and sharing information.

The government has released scant information about what Indian agencies will have access to the system, who may authorise surveillance, and what legal standards must be met to intercept various kinds of data or communications.

India does not have a law to protect against intrusions on privacy.

A government appointed expert group observed in a 2012 report that current privacy regulations were “prone to misuse”.

Wong said Indian authorities should amend the existing Information Technology Act to protect free speech “and be fully transparent about any surveillance system that might chill people’s willingness to share opinions and information”.

In recent years, Indian authorities have arrested people for posting comments critical of the government on social media, put pressure on websites such as Facebook to filter or block content and imposed liability on private telecom operators to filter and remove content from users.

 

2006 Malegaon blasts: Probe against Maha ATS, CBI officials likely


Last Updated: Friday, May 24, 2013,
 
New Delhi: Maharashtra‘s elite Anti-terror Squad and CBI officials, who probed the 2006 Malegaon blasts, may have to face probe as the Centre has taken a serious view of allegations that nine Muslim youths were framed with malafide intentions.

Taking note of the chargesheet filed by the National Investigation Agency earlier this week in which four suspected members of right-wing groups were named as accused, senior officials in Home Ministry, the cadre-controlling authority of IPS, said the Maharashtra Government may be “advised” to probe the role of then ATS officials who had allegedly been framed.

 
The case was registered by Maharashtra ATS with Rajvardhan, then Additional Superintendent of Police of Nasik (Rural).

Abrar Ahmed, who was named by the ATS as an accused, had alleged in an affidavit that then DIG of ATS Subodh Jaiswal (at present on deputation to RAW) and then ATS chief KP Raghuvanshi had “doctored” a confessional statement from him.

Later, the case was probed by CBI whose Joint Director Arun Kumar, at present Additional Director General of Uttar Pradesh Police, but the families of the accused approached the court saying no CBI team ever visited or took their statement.

The supposed transcript of telephone conversation submitted by CBI along with its supplementary chargesheet which purportedly showed Abrar Ahmed hatching the conspiracy was not authentic, the families of the nine accused had claimed in their petitions.

ATS and CBI had earlier filed a charge sheet against the nine Muslim youth and charged them with triggering explosive devices on September 8, 2006 at Malegaon.

The youth, who were behind bars for five years, were released as NIA did not oppose their bail plea.

PTI

 

Seeking public endorsements for Protest Statement regarding NHRC MEMBER selections.


Please see theprotest statement opposing the selection of former NIA Chief   S C Sinha and Justice Cyriac Joseph to the NHRC.
ON The NIA Chief an IPS Officer is being appointed as member NHRC under the category which as per law is  meant for human rights activists.
Justice Cyriac Joseph’s selection is being opposed on ground of the sexist and anti woman bias displayed during his years of Judgeship. Further there is nothing to show any expertise in human rights or interest during his years on the Bench, whereas there is evidence to the contrary.
As long as NHRC is staffed by such persons it will not discharge its mandate. If you agree with the statement please endorse the same. Let us try and reclaim these institutions.
PLEASE NOTE : ENDORSEMENTS ARE TO BE SENT ONLY TO
Vikash Kumar <vikash@wghr.org.

Public Statement Opposing Selection of Mr. S.C.Sinha (IPS – former NIA Chief) and Justice Cyriac Joseph (former Judge of Supreme Court of India) to the NHRC

As members of human rights organisations, women’s rights groups, lawyers, academics and activists, who are engaged with a range of human rights issues we express our strong opposition and disagreement with the recent selections of new members to the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC). We assert that the guiding principles for appointing members to the NHRC are: that they must be persons with a proven track record and experience in the field of human rights; the composition must reflect the plurality and diversity of peoples, particularly the vulnerable and marginalised communities in the country; and the process must be transparent and the appointments credible and must inspire confidence.

We are disturbed to learn from media reports that the Appointment Committee of the NHRC has completed its selection process for the two positions which became vacant with the retirement of Mr. P.C. Sharma (IPS retd.) on 27th June 2012 and Justice G.P. Mathur on 18th Jan’ 2013, with the selection of:

[i] Mr. S.C. Sinha, Former Chief of the National Investigating Agency [NIA]

[ii] Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, Former Judge of  the Supreme Court of  India who retired on 27thJan’ 2012

It is noteworthy that serious and credible objections have been raised against these names by 2 members of the statutory Appointments Committee of the NHRC viz. the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha and the Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha.

The Paris Principles 1993 prescribe the minimum standards required by national human rights institutions to be considered credible and to operate effectively, among which the composition of the Commission is crucial. The Paris Principles underscore pluralism, diversity and transparency. The International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights Sub-Committee on Accreditation (ICC-SCA), has on 9th June, 2011, recommended that the limited recruitment process of the Indian NHRC be altered as it restricts diversity and plurality in membership.1The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekkagya, after an official country visit to India has also recommended “that the functioning of the national commission be strengthened by, inter alia, broadening the selection criteria for the appointment of the Chair and diversifying the composition of the Commission, including regarding gender”2.

It is important to highlight that the vacancy created by the completion of tenure of Mr. P.C. Sharma IPS [Retd.], belongs to the category under Sec. 3(2)(d) of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, which provides for, ”two Members to be appointed from amongst persons having knowledge of, or practical experience in, matters relating to human rights’.

It is indeed shocking and shameful that the government has selected a former IPS police officer, Mr. S.C. Sinha, former NIA Chief, as member of NHRC under this clause. It is a matter of record that the highest number of complaints received by the NHRC annually are against police torture, harassment and brutality. This appointment is in contravention of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the Paris Principles, and amounts to an abuse of power. In a country that boasts of a large number of prominent human rights and women’s rights activists, the appointment of a Police Officer under this category, is unacceptable and deserves to be set aside.

The consistent violation of the mandate of the Protection of Human Rights Act, the Paris Principles and the principles of pluralism and diversity is apparent from the following facts:-

1.      The NHRC, India has hitherto been only comprised – other than the judges appointed to it – by representatives who are retired senior bureaucrats – IAS, IPS, IRS, IFS etc.;

2.      NHRC, India has been ‘advised’ in the recent ICC recommendations that the NHRCI has not had a woman member for the past 8 years;

3.      There is no one representing the members of the SCs and STs or Minorities on the NHRCI as of now;

4.      Further, there has also not been a single member representing civil society since the inception of the NHRC, India.

We wish to underscore the fact that for over 19 years, since the constitution of the NHRC there has not been a single representative from the human rights, women’s rights or democratic rights movement, appointed to the NHRC, despite a very vibrant and active civil society movement in the country society. The members of the NHRC have on each occasion been selected from retired IAS, IPS, IFS, and IRS etc. The list of persons who have in the past been appointed against this particular category of statutorily reserved for persons engaged with human rights is enclosed as Annexure A. Conspicuous by their absence from this list are human rights and women’s rights activists. No person belonging to the Scheduled Caste or Scheduled Tribe has ever been appointed as a member of the NHRC. NHRC records themselves reveal that dalits, adivasis, religious minorities and persons from the North-East face severe violations and deprivations, yet not a single activist from these constituencies has ever been appointed to the NHRC.

It deserves special mention that for the last 8 years and 7 months, since 27th Aug’ 2004, when Justice Ms. Sujata V. Manohar, completed her term, i.e. 8 years and 7 months ago, no woman has ever been appointed as a memebr of the NHRC. This glaring fact reflects not only the embedded prejudice that operates in myriad ways to exclude women but also violates the constitutional mandate of equality and non discrimination. It is distressing and unpardonable that at a juncture when the Justice Verma Committee Report has observed that violence against women is a manifestation of the discrimination and inequality suffered by women, the government is still reluctant to discharge its obligation and continues to deprive women of equal opportunity. The ICC-SCA, in General Observations 2.1 interpreted the Paris Principles as: Ensuring Pluralism, and “further emphasizes that the principle of pluralism includes the meaningful participation of women in the National Institution”.

We have also learnt that the Appointments Committee has selected Mr. Justice Cyriac Joseph, who had retired from the Supreme Court of India on 27th January 2012, to fill the vacancy in the category of a member who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court of India. It is apparent from a holistic reading of The Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, that any interpretation of this clause for purposes of appointment to the NHRC, would inherently require that the Judge must have an established and credible record of respecting, protecting and promoting human rights. Further there should not even be a whisper of allegation against him of discrimination or prejudice against women, dalits, religious or ethnic minorities and others. Any such allegation in his personal or public life, should disqualify the Judge from membership of the NHRC. Moral integrity demands not only that the member of the NHRC should not be monetarily corrupt but that he should be free of bias and should have an abiding faith and resolve in the charter of human rights and principles of equality.

It is to be recalled that Justice Cyriac Joseph was earlier selected to be appointed as the Chairman of Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), New Delhi after Justice S. B. Sinha. Justice Sinha during his judgeship was known for being a workaholic. But due to some ‘reports’ from an “agency” to the Chief Justice before taking a final decision on Justice Joseph’s appointment to the TDSAT, but contained  ‘observations’ on the former judge’s “style of functioning”. In particular, the report had commented on alleged delays in delivering verdicts. It is now known that during his period of service of 1300 days on the Supreme Court from 7th July 2008 to 27th January 2012, J. Cyriac Joseph delivered only 10 judgments in all on the following dates : 18th October 2011, 14th November 2011 (3 judgments), 15th November 2011, 16th December 2011 [ 2 judgments] 25th January 2012 and 27thJanuary 0212 [ 2 judgments]. How a Judge found unfit for the post of TDSAT chairman owing to his working style is fit for membership of the NHRC is inexplicable. The spate of violations experienced by people across the country demands from the members of the NHRC very high levels of integrity, commitment and efficiency, as the right to life and dignity of the most disadvantaged is at stake.

We invite your attention to Article 51A of the Indian Constitution which requires that all citizens renounce practices derogatory of women. This is particularly expected of judges who swear on oath of allegiance to the constitution.

A judge both in his judgments and in his conduct in court is expected to be respectful of women including women lawyers. Justice Cyriac Joseph is reputed to have made extremely derogatory remarks in the presence of women lawyers during the course of arguments in court causing harassment to them. That apart, it has been alleged against him that he attempted to interfere with pending investigations in a criminal prosecution for murder of a nun Sister Abhaya  in Kerala by visiting the forensic laboratory where analysis of the narco analysis test of the accused was being conducted, while he was a sitting judge of the Supreme Court of India. The Kozhikode Bar Association passed a resolution against Justice Cyriac Joseph demanding an investigation into his role and suspending him from work for that period.

Far from demonstrating a track record of commitment to human rights he has demonstrated a derogatory attitude towards women. Such a person cannot be considered to be qualified for appointment as a member of the NHRC.

We therefore urge the government to immediately rescind both the selections made to the NHRC as the same violate the letter and spirit of The Protection of Human Rights Act, the Paris Principles and make a mockery of the mission and purpose of the NHRC. These appointments do not stand the test of credibility, transparency and plurality. It is imperative that a woman member actively engaged with human rights, and associated with the most marginalized communities is appointed to the NHRC to rectify the continuing imbalance and non-representational character of this institution. The government, to inspire confidence amongst the people of India in the NHRC, needs to demonstrate the track record of individuals that qualifies them for membership of the NHRC. If the government is also serious about retaining the global credibility of the NHRC appointing individuals such as Justice Cyriac Joseph and Mr. S.C. Sinha as members will once again call the attention of the International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions to the serious flaws that mark the appointment process for the NHRC. The damage that can be caused by such ill-advised appointments can even lead to the downgrading of the NHRC from the ‘A’ status that it currently enjoys.

Endorsed by:

Vrinda Grover, Lawyer, Delhi

Miloon Kothari, Convenor, WGHR

Kamayani Bali Mahabal, Human Rights Activist, Mumbai

1 International Coordinating Committee of National Institutions for the promotion and protection of Human Rights, Report and Recommendations of the Session of the Sub-Committee on Accreditation — 2011, ICC: Geneva, pp. 13-15. Available at:http://nhri.ohchr.org/EN/AboutUs/ICCAccreditation/Documents/SCA%20REPORT%20MAY%202011%20-%20FINAL%20%28with%20annexes%29.pdf

2 A/HRC/22/47 , para 52

Justice Katju bats for sacked DRDO scientist


New Delhi, March 7, 2013

Special Correspondent, The Hindu

Former employee of DRDO Aijaz Ahmed Mirza who was arrested on terror charges addressing a media conference in Bangalore. File photo

The Hindu Photo Library Former employee of DRDO Aijaz Ahmed Mirza who was arrested on terror charges addressing a media conference in Bangalore. File photo

The PCI chief wrote to Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagdish Shettar, regarding the sacked DRDO scientist who was released as NIA failed to file chargesheet against him

Press Council of India Chairperson Markandey Katju has asked Defence Minister A.K. Antony and Karnataka Chief Minister Jagadish Shettar to look into the case of Aijaz Ahmed Mirza, who was sacked as DRDO scientist after having been implicated in a bomb blast case.

In his letter to them, Justice Katju said media reports indicated that no evidence had been found against Mr. Mirza by the National Investigation Agency, which also refused to file a charge sheet against him.

If no evidence is found, “he should be reinstated forthwith in the post he was holding before he was sacked.”

Justice Katju also asked that adequate compensation be paid, and an open apology be tendered by the Central/State government to Mr. Mirza for the ‘torture and indignities in jail’ he suffered.

The letter comes a day after Justice Katju’s appeal to the media to exercise restraint in their coverage of blasts, and to refrain from falsely implicating Muslims even before investigations are complete.

 

#Bangalore -DRDO sacks youth who got bail in terror module case


TNN | Mar 4, 2013, 06.11 AM IST

BANGALORE: Ejaz Ahmed Mirza, 25, who has been granted bail in the Bangalore terror module case, has been terminated from the Defence Research Development Organization where he worked as a junior research fellow.

Ejaz, who is likely to walk out of the Parappana Agrahara Central Jail on Monday morning, was among the 15 youths held by the Bangalore police in August-November 2012 for suspected terror activities. However, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the probe and charged only 11 of the 15 arrested. While two of the arrested youths were discharged, Ejaz was granted bail on Thursday.

Ejaz’s father, Rauf Abdul Mirza, confirmed the DRDO order and said he will be reaching Bangalore on Monday morning. “Yes, we received a termination letter from the DRDO dated February 12. However, my current priority is to get my son out on bail and further action will be decided once he is back. We have been told that he will be able to get back to DRDO and we hope it will be possible,” he said.

A DRDO spokesperson said: “He was not a DRDO employee, but was just a junior research fellow with one of the labs, and was taken in early 2012. It is a fellowship programme, and fellows are normally taken for a particular study, which is ongoing and they are encouraged to enroll for PhD etc, while they gain research experience with our labs. This is purely a temporary assignment.

“Based on the performance of a fellow, or when a particular study is completed, his fellowship can be terminated at any point of time by the local lab director. Or, he could get upgraded to a senior research fellow, but even that is not permanent employment with DRDO. The decision on a fellow is left purely to the lab director, and the ministry of defence and DRDO headquarters have no role at all,” the spokesperson added.

Hyderabad Twin Blast: Police Arrest one suspect in Ranchi


PTI | Mar 04, 2013, 12:06PM IST

Ranchi:  A man has been arrested in connection with the February 21 Hyderabad blasts, according to the information provided by police.
“A man identified as Manzar Imam has been arrested,” Superintendent of Police Vipul Shukla told media.
The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had been searching him for the last two years in connection with the Ahmedabad blast incident too and had visited Ranchi’s Bariatu area twice looking for him earlier.
The twin blasts in Hyderabad’s Dilsukhnagar had left 16 people dead.

Bangalore Court grants bail to DRDO scientist in terror case #goodnews


By Newzfirst Correspondent2/28/13

Bangalore – The National Investigation Agency (NIA) special court on Thursday ordered the release of another youth who was arrested last year on terror related charges, after granting him statutory bail for failure to file a charge-sheet within 180 days of arrest.

The bail application moved by the defence counsel of Aejaz Ahmed Mirza on Wednesday contended that the investigating agency failed to file the charge-sheet within the stipulated time of 180 days since his arrest.

Aejaz Ahmed Mirza – a DRDO scientist – was among the 15 youths arrested last year by Central Crime Branch (CCB) Bangalore sleuths, from different parts of Karnataka and Hyderabad, for allegedly plotting to kill prominent personalities and having links with banned terror outfits.

Speaking to Newzfirst, Akmal Razvi, lawyer and secretary of Association for Protection of Civil Rights said, “The NIA counsel said that they have some evidence, but no prosecutable evidence. So he has been released on statutory bail.”

Earlier this week, two more persons – who were accused in the same case – were released after the NIA dropped all charges against them.

In its charge-sheet submitted on 20 February 2013, the NIA had filed charges against 11 of the 15 arrested youths while dropping charges against two – Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddiqui and Yusuf Nalband – and asking more time for interrogating the other two – Aejaz Ahmed Mirza and Syed Tanzeem.

 

Guilty until proven innocent? #fabricated #illegalarrests #minorityrights


  hoot.org
Siddiqui is, of course, not the first journalist to be implicated in terrorism-related cases, though he is certainly among those whose predicament has not attracted due attention from media colleagues or civil society, says AMMU JOSEPH.
 

A charge-sheet against 12 persons accused of links with banned terrorist organisations and involvement in an alleged plot to kill certain individuals, including a couple of journalists and a publisher, was submitted by the National Investigation Agency to the NIA Special Court in Bangalore on 20 February 2013.  Eleven of the accused have been in custody for nearly six months while one is believed to be out of the country. 

Four of the 15 individuals arrested in August-September 2012 by the Central Crime Branch of the Bangalore Police have not been named in the charge-sheet.  Among them is a young journalist, Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui, who at the time of his arrest was a reporter with Deccan Herald, covering education.

 

The NIA has reportedly stated that the investigation against the four left out of the charge-sheet is still pending, and the possibility of a supplementary charge-sheet naming them has not yet been officially ruled out.  However, the young men’s advocates and families claim that their exclusion from the first charge-sheet indicates that the investigating agency has no evidence against them.  The legal team of the Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR) is likely to submit an application for bail for the four who have not been charged with any crime despite months of incarceration. 

 

Siddiqui’s arrest had initially caused a sensation in media circles, especially since police sources (ubiquitous and omniscient as ever) claimed that he was “the mastermind who identified high-profile personalities for assassination by his associates.”  The Times of India, for example, carried a headline stating this clearly premature allegation as fact (“Scribe was mastermind”) even though the story went on to say that people who knew Siddiqui said he was “a soft-spoken person who was serious about journalism and helpful to colleagues,” and “never wore his extremist beliefs, if any, on his sleeve.” 

 

(Other articles and blog posts about media coverage of the involvement of journalists in the case, as accused and/or as targets, are available here:  “Bangalore journo in plot to kill editors, publisher?”;  “Anti-minority bias behind foiled bid on journos?”;  “Police, media and the creature called ‘terrorist’”.)

 

Siddiqui’s situation was among the several triggers that led to a panel discussion titled “The framing of a ‘terrorist’ – Risks and lessons for the media” organised by Media Watch Bengaluru(MWB) in the city on 16 February.  Although the dots drawn by the police to suggest that those detained were linked to Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and/or Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) did not appear to connect, and even a former chief of RAW questioned the quality of evidence in the case, there was unfortunately little follow-up or independent investigation by the media into what has been described as “one of the most thrilling pre-emptive terror arrests.”

 

Journalists implicated in terror cases

Siddiqui is, of course, not the first journalist to be implicated in terrorism-related cases, though he is certainly among those whose predicament has not attracted due attention from media colleagues or civil society.

KK Shahina, Kerala-based Assistant Editor of Open, is scheduled to appear on 22 February at the sessions court in Somwarpet in Kodagu district, Karnataka, in the first hearing of the two criminal cases booked against her in two separate courts, which will necessitate two trips a month to and from the state. 

 

Already, since July 2011, when she was granted bail by the High Court of Karnataka, she has had to make fortnightly visits to Bangalore to present herself before the investigating officer.  Speaking at the MWB event last Saturday she described the ordeal she has been through since November 2010, when the Karnataka Police charged her under several sections of the Indian Penal Code as well Section 22 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 – all for doing her job as an investigative journalist then with Tehelka (as described in her recent article, “Prisoner of an image,” and her speech at the 2011 Chameli Devi Jain award ceremony, “I am a Muslim, not a terrorist”). 

 

Despite protests and statements against such harassment by journalists’ organisations (like the Kerala Union of Working Journalists and the International Federation of Journalists) and others, the cases against her seem all set to march on.

 

 

 

(An update: Today, Shahina secured bail from the Somwarpet magistrate Jitendra Nath in Coorg amidst a lot of tension due to protests from hindu fundamentalists. They tried to intimidate her supporters and gheraoed her ‘hindu’ friend and unsuccessfully tried to dissuade him from standing surety for her! Shahina had decided to have two friends – a hindu and a muslim – to stand surety for her and the hindu fundamentalists targeted the hindu friend.

Also, they tried to snatch the camera of a news channel – media one – and get them to delete the recording.  Shahina and her supporters had to leave the area under police escort. While this case is posted to March 30, she is to appear in another case in madikeri on February 26).   

Syed Iftikhar Gilani’s traumatic experience of a decade ago came back to haunt him within hours of the execution of Mohammad Afzal Guru on 9 February. 

Gilani, then Delhi bureau chief of Kashmir Times, was arrested in June 2002.  Despite the lack of proof, he was remanded first to police custody, then judicial custody and finally charged under the Official Secrets Act. If the case had been moved against him, he would have faced a minimum of 14 years in jail. Fortunately for him, an expose in the Indian Express, and follow-up by his family and supporters (including the Delhi Union of Journalists, the Editors’ Guild of India and other media colleagues), established conclusively that the so-called “classified” documents in his possession were reports that were freely available on the Internet.  And so the case against him had to be dropped, albeit seven months after he was detained.

Despite this and despite his track record since then, including an award from theSahityaAkademi, he was again detained and his family (including his children) harassed and intimidated by the Delhi Police just a fortnight ago.

And, of course, there is the ongoing case of Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi, accused of conspiring to bomb an Israeli embassy car in Delhi in February 2012 and finally released on bail in October, after being held in custody for seven months.

In July 2012 a group of senior journalists, academics and activists in Delhi wrote to the editors of The Times of India and Times Now, strongly protesting against stories that were “highly prejudicial to Mr. Syed Kazmi, a journalist himself,” and the apparent “attempt to pass judgement on Mr. Kazmi” through their media outlets.  Unfortunately, that letter – providing details of the offending stories – does not seem to have been published anywhere.

In August-September 2012 the global news agency, Inter Press Service, ran a three-part series by an award-winning investigative journalist (Gareth Porter) titled, “The Delhi Car Bombing: How the Police Built a False Case.” The articles exposed the tactics employed by the Special Cell of the Delhi Police, including the leaking of false confessions and evidence to the news media. 

According to the series, the first wave of leaks to the press about Kazmi’s alleged confessions – suggesting that he had admitted to having participated in the embassy car bomb plot – were timed to generate a wave of sensational articles in March 2012, just before his first bail application.  That manoeuvre apparently prompted the court hearing the bail application to admonish the public prosecutor.  Kazmi himself denounced the “disclosure statements” attributed to him as false, stating in a handwritten petition to the court that the Special Cell had coerced him into providing his signature on blank pages, threatening that his family would face “dire consequences” if he did not do as they directed.

A 200-page report titled “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell,” brought out by the Jamia Teachers’ Solidarity Association, was released in September 2012, coincidentally soon after Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui and others were  arrested by the Bangalore Police.  The detailed report, relying mainly on court documents, chronicles 16 cases in which people arrested as operatives of various terrorist groups were later acquitted by the courts.  Of course, acquittals do not generally make as much news as arrests – so their names are often not cleared in the minds of the public.

At an interaction organised by the Network of Women in Media – Mumbai in February 2003, Syed Iftekhar Gilani made several interesting observations about the media, which are worth revisiting.  Of particular relevance in today’s context is this comment addressed to media colleagues:  “My message to journalist friends is that if they can do it with me, they can do it with you tomorrow. My case should be a wake-up call for all journalists and concerned citizens. I was lucky to be in the capital of the country and have friends who had the reach in the Government to persuade its political leadership to see the facts. I, however, shudder at the fate of the citizens living in small towns who may be wronged by the arms of the Government who are supposed to protect them. Who will speak for them?”

Bangalore is not exactly a small town.  But, as far as Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui and the other young men who have already been in custody for close to six months are concerned, it might as well be.

 

 

NIA files charge-sheet in terror plot, drops charges against two


By Newzfirst Correspondent2/21/13

Bangalore – About 6 months after 15 youths were arrested from different locations in Karnataka on charges of a terror plot and alleged links with banned terror outfits, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) submitted a charge-sheet on Wednesday against 12 persons while dropping the charges of two others – journalist Muthi Ur Rehman Siddique and Yusuf Nalband.

On 29 August, 11 youths were picked up by CCB sleuths from Bangalore and Hubli for alleged links with banned terror outfits. Four more were subsequently arrested from different locations in Karnataka and Hyderabad.

The case of these 15 accused was registered at Basaveshwara Nagar police station, with the CCB Special Enquiries (SE) squad of Bangalore being in-charge of the investigation.

The NIA later took over the investigation of the case (384/2012) and continued inquiry against the accused persons after re-registering the case as RC 04/12/ NIA/Hyd.

According to the NIA, 25 persons are accused in the above case. Of the 25 accused, 15 have been arrested so far while 10 more are absconding.

Out of the 15 persons who were arrested, the NIA has filed charges against 11. The charges against two persons - journalist Muthi Ur Rehman Siddique and Yusuf Nalband - have been dropped while the NIA has sought more time to investigate two others, namely Aejaz Ahmed Mirza and Syed Tanzeem. One more person who is included in the charge-sheet, but remains absconding, is Zakir @ Ustad.

The present charge sheet has been submitted against 12 of the 25 accused persons, namely Shoaib Ahmed Mirza @ Chotu, Abdul  Hakeem  Jamadar, Riyaz Ahmed Byahatti , Mohammad Akram @ Khaled, Ubedullah Bahadur @ Imran, Wahid Hussain Kanakyanavar, Dr. Zafar Iqbal Sholapur, Mohammad Sadiq Lashkar, Mehboob Bagalkote,  Zakir @ Ustad,  Obaid-Ur-Rehman and Dr. Nayeem Siddique, charged under sections 120 B  read with (r/w) 153 A,  399 of Indian Penal Code (IPC),  section 18 r/w sections 10, 13, 17, and 38 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) 1967 and section 3 r/w 25 of the Arms Act 1959.

“The investigation disclosed the conspiracy to commit terrorist activities in India by a Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) supported network of terrorists based abroad and their associates in India in the States of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra,” NIA said in a statement.

“Further Investigation of the Case is in progress against other accused who are absconding and suspected to be based in foreign countries as well as two arrested accused,” the statement further read.

Prisoner of an Image-Abdul Nasser Madani #fabricated


26 January 2013

Why no one speaks for , the ailing politician who has been kept behind bars for years on evidence that is suspect, and how reporting on him made me a target of the Karnataka police
BY Shahina KK EMAIL AUTHOR(S), The Open Magazine
TAGGED UNDER | Karnataka | prisoner | Abdul Nasser Madani
FRAMED
BETWEEN ARRESTS Madani meets the media after his acquittal in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts case; with his sons (in white) on the same day

BETWEEN ARRESTS Madani meets the media after his acquittal in the 1998 Coimbatore blasts case; with his sons (in white) on the same day

Two years ago, I did a story in Tehelka titled ‘Why is this man still in prison?’ It is a question that has still not been answered. Abdul Nasser Madani, a political leader in Kerala and the thirty-first accused in the 2008 Bangalore blast case, remains in jail without bail even though he is a wheelchair-bound chronic diabetic and there are strong indications that the evidence against him is fabricated. Two of the prosecution witnesses, quoted by the police as having witnessed Madani conspiring with a Lashkar-e-Toiba commander to carry out the blast, had told me that they had not seen Madani ever.

It was towards the end of the 1980s that Madani became a dramatic figure in the public life of Kerala. He was a charismatic religious scholar with an extraordinary oratorial flair. He became a crowd puller at a very young age, and had a huge fan following among Muslims. In 1991, he formed the Islamic Seva Sangh (ISS) in response to the riots that took place in Bhagalpur and Kerala following LK Advani’s rathyathra. Among secularists, Madani had no legitimacy and was perceived as just a reactionary counterpoint to the RSS.

Listening to his speeches and spotting his images in newspapers was suffocating and scary to me in the early 1990s. He demanded women cover their bodies. As a Muslim woman, I found it intimidating though I had distanced myself from religion. In course of time, I witnessed Madani metamorphose into the role of a wise politician who called for the emancipation of marginalised and oppressed communities like Dalits and Other Back- ward Communities, besides Muslims. The ISS was banned in 1992. When the Babri Masjid was demolished and unrest spread, Madani did not wait for the ban to be lifted. He disbanded the organisation and formed a political party called the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was something new to the state, which had traditionally had the limited option of oscillating between the Left Demo- cratic Front and the United Democratic Front. In the November 1993 by-election to the Ottappalam Lok Sabha constituency (the seat had been vacated by KR Narayanan, who moved to become President of India), the PDP supported the Left. Madani’s public life came to a temporary end in 1998 with his arrest by the Tamil Nadu police for his alleged involvement in the Coimbatore bomb blasts the same year.

None of the charges against him were proved and he was acquitted in 2007. But spending nine-and-a-half years in jail as a trial prisoner changed him. The old Madani who delivered belligerent public speeches was gone and the new one turned out to be serenely democratic, non-violent and peaceful in his political discourse. Madani was embraced by the CPM, and a new alliance was born, which would later prove costly for both. Madani could never live down his image of a man who misguided Muslim youth through inflammatory speeches.

In 2009, the Malayalam media was flooded with stories about the complicity of Madani and his wife Soofiya in a few cases that allegedly had terror links. The stories had the typical characteristics of crime reporting with information based largely on ‘highly placed sources’ with no substantiating evidence. This display of antagonism by the media was later interpreted by Kerala’s Left intellectuals as an expression of discontent towards the CPM for allying with the PDP in the 2009 parliamentary polls. Their telling defeat in that election made the CPM believe that the PDP factor had been ruinous to the party. From then on, they kept a distance from Madani. When the Karnataka police arrested him in August 2011, the CPM was in power but it chose to maintain a strategic silence.

The charge against Madani was that he had conspired with T Naseer, reportedly LeT’s south Indian commander, to carry out the 2008 Bangalore blasts. Even before the arrest, Jose Verghese, one of the prosecution witnesses against Madani, had filed a complaint in the National Investigation Agency court claiming that his testimony was forged. He was the owner of the house in Ernakulam that Madani had got on rent after his return from Coimbatore jail. In an interview given to me in 2010, Verghese disclosed why he had gone to court disclaiming his testimony. The police arrived at his house in Kochi (the one rented to Madani, though he had moved out by then) and he was asked to be present. They had brought along a man whose eyes were covered with a piece of cloth. The police told Verghese that the man was LeT commander T Naseer. He was asked to sign a document written in Kannada and told that it was just a statement of their visit and examination of the place. Later, Verghese learnt from the media what the document said—that he had seen Madani and Naseer at that house ‘conspiring to carry out the blast’. Another witness, MM Majeed, a former PDP worker who had testified that he had seen Madani with Naseer, had terminal cancer and was on his death bed on the day the police claimed to have recorded his statement. Another witness was Madani’s brother, Jamal Ahmed, who also moved a complaint in court against the Karnataka police for cooking up a witness statement supposedly made by him.

Till recently, the media and political parties in Kerala had kept mum about these obvious holes in the police charges, and Madani remained a taboo topic for years. Public memory of the case was revived largely through the efforts of the few who continued to argue for the human rights of prisoners. According to his lawyers, his bail pleas have been rejected more than a couple of times on insufficient grounds. According to people who visited him in jail, Madani’s health deteriorates day by day. He moves in a wheelchair ever since he lost one of his legs in the 1993 bomb blast at a public meeting, carried out allegedly by the RSS. The accused in that case were acquitted in 2009 after Madani refused to identify them in court declaring that he did not believe in revenge.

Repeated pleas from his relatives and lawyers to facilitate his treatment had till recently got no result. A recent medical report said Madani has almost completely lost his eyesight. In an open letter to the media, sent from jail, Madani said the authorities had refused to take him to hospital even on producing a medical report that stated he was suffering from acute diabetic retinopathy. The doctors had advised continuous medication and weekly check-ups, but he was only taken to a doctor after a lag of seven months. “His health is critically bad. He has swellings on his legs and face, which is a typical symptom of kidney trouble. One surgery has been conducted on his nose, which has developed an acute infection due to high blood sugar. His nose is plastered. He told me that he has terrible pain in the amputated leg,” says MA Baby, CPM Politburo member and former minister of Kerala who recently visited Madani in jail.

Leaders of the Indian Union Muslim League—a party that had never offered any comment on the false witnesses in Madani’s case—visited him in jail and are now demanding that the government safeguard his human rights. Kanthapuram AP Aboobacker, a prominent Muslim community leader in Kerala, called on the Karnataka home minister and demanded justice in Madani’s case. The CPM too has finally broken its silence. Party leaders visited Madani in jail and expressed grave concern about his health. They demanded that he be shifted to a hospital at the earliest. “We suspect that the evidence against him is fabricated,” said MA Baby to the media while exiting Bangalore’s Parappana Agrahara prison. Even Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy has expressed concern. In a meeting with his Karnataka counterpart, Jagadish Shettar, Chandy urged him to ensure medical treatment for Madani. Malayalam news channels have brought back the Madani case on their primetime bulletins, and such pressure has led to some results. Earlier this month, the trial court ordered that Madani be shifted to hospital and granted permission to his wife and son to stay with him. He was finally moved to a private hospital for treatment last week.

What Madani demonstrated in politics was never a model. As a political party, the PDP was a grand failure. It is a nondescript entity full of Madani followers rather than a party with a mass base. In the absence of Madani, the party had no way of surviving or exerting any influence. However, his case is unique: the media always treated him with suspicion; he was imprisoned for a decade, later found innocent, re-arrested and imprisoned.

My own story runs parallel to Madani’s. I recorded the conversation with the fake witnesses against Madani on a hidden camera. After the story was published, I was booked for ‘intimidating the witnesses’ despite the visuals showing them voluntarily telling me everything. For a long time, I travelled to Bangalore every 15 days to present myself before the investigating officer. This was the condition on which I had been granted anticipatory bail by the Karnataka High Court.

When I was framed by the Karnataka police, a couple of newspapers reported the police version as is, without even attributing it to a source, making it look like the charges against me were genuine. Many fellow journalists from my previous stint as a television reporter stopped calling me. Contrary to the conspicuous silence maintained by newspapers, Malayalam weekly magazines came up with cover stories, correctly identifying it as a violation of freedom of the press. A few days ago, a chargesheet was submitted in my case and phase two of the legal battle has begun. I am back to giving interviews to news channels, delivering speeches at public meetings, talking about how people are being framed and how bleak the prospects are for a truly free press in the country.