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.

 

 

If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM #minorityrights


 

Nothing Learnt
If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI)
B. RAMAN, outlook
It is less than 48 hours since the two blasts in the Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad on the evening of February 21, 2013, resulted in the death of 16 innocent civilians.
The police and the intelligence agencies are still in the preliminary stages of the investigation. They have not yet done a reconstruction of the act of terrorism. The collection and examination of the forensic evidence have not yet been completed .No arrests and interrogation have been made yet.

Instead of waiting till the investigation makes substantial progress, the police and the agencies, with the help of sensation-hungry media, have already started pointing the finger at the Muslim community, the Indian Mujahideen and Pakistan.

If there is terror, it has to be a Muslim. If he is a Muslim, he has to be from the IM. If it is the IM, it must have acted at the instance of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). That seems to be the thinking reflex of the police and the agencies.

In October last, according to the Delhi Police, a Muslim suspect belonging to the IM told them during his interrogation that the IM had recced the Dilsukhnagar area as a possible target. From this, one could have reasonable suspicion that the IM might have carried out the attack. To strengthen the suspicion, one must have additional evidence which has not been forthcoming till now. Despite this, the police and the agencies in their mind have already  turned the suspicion into certainty. Almost the entire investigation is now focused on the IM, overlooking other possibilities.

One cannot think of a more unprofessional way of dealing with terrorism. Very often, our initial hasty conclusions remain unproved or uncorroborated. That is why the investigation of so many of our terrorism cases  has reached a dead end. Many of the cases  remain undetected or unprosecuted or unsuccessful even if prosecuted.

After every few months, we are taken by surprise by a new act of terrorism because we didn’t investigate professionally the previous acts of terrorism. Our track record has been one of hurtling from one hasty conclusion to another.

Instead of learning lessons from the past, we continue repeating the same mistakes. Imprecise intelligence, alerts not followed up by ground action to strengthen physical security, lack of beat patrolling by the police despite our talking about it for years, absence of professional reconstruction of an act of terrorism to determine how the terrorists managed to succeed, cover-up of the sins of commission and omission of our police and agencies–that has been our track record. Unless we get out of this unprofessional rut, terrorists will continue to strike with impunity and innocent civilians will continue to die.


B. Raman is Additional Secretary (Retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies

 

#India- Shocking case of miscarriage of justice


Wanton Lawlessness, Outlook
The Lajpat Nagar bomb blast case of 1996 shows horrendous police culpability — if the court had not noticed the ‘casualness and slipshod approach’ of the police, three persons might have been wrongly executed by the state

Instances of miscarriage of justice are many in India. Sometimes, such instances arise due to gross negligence by the police in the investigation. Sometimes, due to wanton fabrication of evidence and violation of the legal procedures to be followed during the investigation.

Such instances continue to take place and even increase in number because of the lack of fear in the police officers that action might be taken against them for miscarriages of justice caused by negligence or mala fide actions or inaction.

There has been a worrisome increase in the number of such cases ever since terrorism made its appearance in the early 1980s.Calls for ruthless action against terrorists and zero tolerance of terrorism have unfortunately created an impression in the minds of sections of police officers that any methods are good methods for dealing with terrorists and terrorism. Political tolerance of the use of illegal methods in dealing with terrorists has added to the belief that the police can take liberties with the law and procedures while dealing with terrorism.

One has to be firm and ruthless under the law in dealing with terrorists, but one cannot go beyond the law in dealing with them. One has to use the might of the law against them, but one cannot use illegal methods and procedures during the investigation. Use of such methods and procedures prove counter-productive.

Since many of the acts of terrorism committed in India are by jihadis, innocent Muslims have often been the victims of mala fide investigation. Instead of controlling terrorism, it aggravates it by adding to the anger in the Muslim community against the police and other investigating agencies. It becomes a vicious circle. The more illegal the methods used by the police, the more the terrorism. The more the terrorism, the more illegal the methods used by the police.

A shocking instance of such wrongful action and miscarriage of justice has been brought to notice after 16 years by a Division Bench of Delhi consisting of Justice Ravindra Bhat and Justice G.P.Mittal. In a judgement delivered on November 22, 2012, it has acquitted two Kashmiri Muslim convicts who had been awarded death penalty by the trial court in a case relating to an explosion in the Lajpat Nagar Market of New Delhi in 1996 in which 13 persons were killed. Another convict’s sentence was reduced to life term.

It is a horrendous case because if the court had not noticed the wanton miscarriage of justice by the police, three persons might have been executed by the state on the basis of evidence of questionable value and authenticity. It was not a case of the police unconsciously using such evidence, but wantonly using such evidence in full knowledge of its lack of authenticity in order to obtain a conviction.

The judgement has said: “Police have not maintained minimum standard of probe in the case, test identification parade (TIP) was not conducted, statements of vital witnesses were not recorded. There was also absence of (police) daily diary entry in the case.” The court has observed that there was casualness in the investigation of the case.

While we have taken many steps to improve the quality of intelligence collection and physical security, we have not succeeded in improving the quality of investigation. This has had two results. Firstly, an increasing number of undetected cases. Secondly, instances of the use of wrongful methods and miscarriage of justice in cases which are claimed to have been successfully detected.

After the 26/11 terrorist strikes in Mumbai, the government had set up the National Investigation Agency (NIA) to improve the quality of investigation. Despite this, the number of undetected cases has been increasing. This judgement has drawn our attention to a serious case of miscarriage of justice due to bad investigation in the year 1996– sixteen years later. One does not know how many more such instances remain unnoticed or undetected during the prosecution and trial.

It is important for the government to go into this and take corrective action to prevent a recurrence of such instances. There is a need to improve not only the quality of the investigation, but also the quality of the supervision over the investigation by senior officers.


B. Raman  is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: seventyone2@gmail.com Twitter @SORBONNE75)

” Aao Kasab Ko Phansi Dain ” -a poem by Anshu Malviya


उसे चौराहे पर फाँसी दें !
बल्कि उसे उस चौराहे पर फाँसी दें
जिस पर फ्लड लाईट लगाकर
विधर्मी औरतों से बलात्कार किया गया
गाजे-बाजे के साथ
कैमरे और करतबों के साथ
लोकतंत्र की जय बोलते हुए

उसे उस पेड़ की डाल पर फाँसी दें
जिस पर कुछ देर पहले खुदकुशी कर रहा था किसान
उसे पोखरन में फाँसी दें
और मरने से पहले उसके मुंह पर
एक मुट्ठी रेडियोएक्टिव धूल मल दें

उसे जादूगोड़ा में फाँसी दें
उसे अबूझमाड़ में फाँसी दें
उसे बाटला हाउस में फाँसी दें
उसे फाँसी दें………कश्मीर में
गुमशुदा नौजवानों की कब्रों पर

उसे एफ.सी.आई. के गोदाम में फाँसी दें
उसे कोयले की खदान में फाँसी दें.
आओ कसाब को फाँसी दें !!

उसे खैरलांजी में फाँसी दें
उसे मानेसर में फाँसी दें
उसे बाबरी मस्जिद के खंडहरों पर फाँसी दें
जिससे मजबूत हो हमारी धर्मनिरपेक्षता
कानून का राज कायम हो

उसे सरहद पर फाँसी दें
ताकि तर्पण मिल सके बंटवारे के भटकते प्रेत को

उसे खदेड़ते जाएँ माँ की कोख तक……और पूछें
जमीनों को चबाते, नस्लों को लीलते
अजीयत देने की कोठरी जैसे इन मुल्कों में
क्यों भटकता था बेटा तेरा
किस घाव का लहू चाटने ….
जाने किस ज़माने से बहतें हैं
बेकारी, बीमारी और बदनसीबी के घाव…..

सरहद की औलादों को ऐसे ही मरना होगा
चलो उसे रॉ और आई.एस.आई. के दफ्तरों पर फाँसी दें
आओ कसाब को फाँसी दें !!

यहाँ न्याय एक सामूहिक हिस्टीरिया है
आओ कसाब की फाँसी को राष्ट्रीय उत्सव बना दें

निकालें प्रभातफेरियां
शस्त्र-पूजा करें
युद्धोन्माद,
राष्ट्रोन्माद,
हर्षोन्माद
गर मिल जाए कोई पेप्सी-कोक जैसा प्रायोजक
तो राष्ट्रगान की प्रतियोगिताएं आयोजित करें
कंगलों को बाँटें भारतमाता की मूर्तियां
तैयारी करो कम्बख्तो ! फाँसी की तैयारी करो !

इस एक फाँसी से
कितने मसले होने हैं हल
निवेशकों में भरोसा जगना है
सेंसेक्स को उछलना है
ग्रोथ रेट को पहुँच जाना है दो अंको में

कितने काम बाकी हैं अभी
पंचवर्षीय योजना बनानी है
पढनी है विश्व बैंक की रपटें
करना है अमरीका के साथ संयुक्त युद्धाभ्यास
हथियारों का बजट बढ़ाना है…
आओ कसाब को फाँसी दें !

उसे गांधी की समाधि पर फाँसी दें
इस एक काम से मिट जायेंगे हमारे कितने गुनाह

हे राम ! हे राम ! हे राम !…”

–अंशु मालवीय 

Mumbai High Court- Not everyone who believes in Maoist ideology is a terrorist’ #mustshare


Sunil Baghel, Mumbai Mirror , Oct 10,2012

On October 3, the Bombay High Court granted bail to two people accused of being Maoists, saying it is “impossible to hold” that every person attracted to or influenced by the Maoist ideology “is to be treated as a member of a terrorist organisation”.
Sushma Ramtekke and Jyoti Chorge were granted bail for Rs 30,000 each, and sureties of similar amounts, on the condition that they visit their local police stations every Sunday.
The duo were arrested in April last year by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad for being a part of the Golden Corridor Committee – a group allegedly set up by the banned Communist Party of India (Maoist) to spread its message in urban areas.
“A number of persons are influenced by and attracted to the Maoist philosophy because of the oppression of weaker sections of society. The applicants too, like a number of such persons, might have been influenced and impressed by the Maoist philosophy,” the court observed.
Justice Abhay Thipsay, while granting them bail, observed that committees appointed by the government to study the problem of naxalites have found that it is the social, political, economic and cultural discrimination faced by the poor that drives them to the Maoists.
“It is impossible to hold that all such persons are to be treated as members of a terrorist organisation, or that they are liable to be punished for having some faith in such a philosophy, or for having sympathy for those who propagate such philosophy,” Justice Thipsay said in his judgement.
Another point that went in favour of the two accused was that the prosecution could not show that they were active members of the banned organisation.
The court observed that while the prosecution had taken lot of effort to show how the organisation posed a threat to the entire country, it could not show how the two accused were in any way actively involved.
The court said that the investigating agency had levelled a number of charges and general allegations against the accused, but there was no allegation that that either of them had committed a terrorist act.
Lack of evidence
Moreover, it said they did not have any evidence to show that the duo had conspired to commit a terrorist act, organise a terrorist training camp, or recruit anyone for terrorist acts.
The prosecution relied mainly on books and materials allegedly recovered from the duo to show that they were members of the banned organisation. But on this issue, the court observed that the material recovered was not banned under Code of Criminal Procedure or any other law.
Noting that it would run against the freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution, the court said, “That the possession of certain literature having a particular social or political philosophy would amount to an offence – though such literature is not expressly or specifically banned under any provision of law – is a shocking proposition in a democratic country like ours.”

#Wisconsin Gurudwara shooting probed as ‘domestic terrorism’


 

 

A man sits on a rock as police investigate the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin in Oak Creek, Wis., after a shooting Sunday, Aug 5, 2012. A gunman killed six people at the suburban Milwaukee temple in a rampage that left terrified congregants hiding in closets and others texting friends outside for help. The suspect was killed outside the temple in a shootout with police officers.

The Associated Press

Published Sunday, Aug. 05 2012, 1:07 PM EDT

Police in Wisconsin say seven people are dead at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee, including the suspected gunman.

The FBI says it is investigating whether the shootings were an act of domestic terrorism. FBI Special Agent in Charge Teresa Carlson says in a Sunday night statement that no motive has been determined for the attack at the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. She says the investigation is in its early stages.

He says one of those killed outside is the suspect. Oak Creek Police Chief John Edwards says the suspect “ambushed” one of the first officers to arrive at the scene as the officer tended to a shooting victim.

Mr. Edwards says the suspect shot the officer multiple times outside the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin on Sunday morning. A second officer then exchanged gunfire with the suspect and fatally shot him. Mr. Edwards says the officer who was ambushed is undergoing surgery at a nearby hospital and is expected to survive.

Police do not believe a second shooter was involved, contradicting earlier reports of multiple shooters.

At least three men have been admitted to a Milwaukee-area hospital, including one police officer. A Froederdt Hospital spokeswoman says one of the men is in the operating room, another is in a surgical intensive care unit and the third is being evaluated in the emergency room. All three are considered to be in critical condition.

The first official word from police was that they didn’t know how many victims or suspects were involved. But a short time later, after an extensive search of the temple, authorities said they did not believe there was more than one shooter.

“It was a very coordinated thing. It wasn’t haphazard,” temple member Amardeep Kaleka told CNN. He said his father was wounded in the attack.

“This is nerve-racking. No one really knows what’s going on. Nothing like this has ever happened before,” Mangat said. Later, when he learned of the deaths, he said, “It was like the heart just sat down. This shouldn’t happen anywhere.”

It is still unknown how many were wounded in the shooting. At least three priests may be among those shot, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

According to the Journal Sentinel, one of the temple’s committee members said the motive for the shooting is unknown, but identified one shooter as a white male who is not a member of the temple, and suggested it may have been “a hate crime.”

U.S. President Barack Obama said Sunday that he and First Lady Michelle Obama had been “deeply saddened” to learn of a shooting that left at least seven people dead at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

“As we mourn this loss which took place at a house of worship, we are reminded how much our country has been enriched by Sikhs, who are a part of our broader American family,” he said, in a White House statement.

Police and ambulances have cordoned off the area, and tactical units are on scene, while officers were dispatched to another nearby temple as a precaution.

With reports from James Bradshaw and Reuters