Jamiat Ulama, APCR to give legal aid to UP Muslim youth arrested over “al-Qaeda module”

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind (JUH), the prominent Muslim organisation and Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), a civil rights advocacy group have said they will provide legal assistance to Muslim youth arrested in Uttar Pradesh for their alleged connection with an “al-Qaeda module”.

The two men, Minhaz Ahmad and Maseeruddin, were arrested on 11 July by Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) which claimed that the Muslim youth were “members of al-Qaeda’s Ansar Ghazwat-ul-Hind”. Three more Muslim men Shakeel Hussain, Mohammad Mustakeem and Mohammad Mueed were arrested subsequently from Kanpur, Sambhal and Muzaffarnagar districts in Uttar Pradesh. ATS claimed that they all were arrested for plotting to carry out terror strikes in the state including using “human bombs” before Independence Day. All are in the custody of UP ATS since the arrest.

Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind said that the accused have the right of legal counsel and that it will provide them with that.

“We have taken this decision because in the past there have been so many cases in which courts have let off suspects because they could not find any evidence against those innocent people. For years they languish in jails and the media conducts its own trial and leaves no stone unturned in labeling them terrorists. But when they are freed of all the charges, not a single line is published in their favour,” JUH president and a well-known Islamic scholar Arshad Madani said.

The Muslim group said it will provide legal assistance to Minhaz Ahmad and Maseeruddin arrested in Lucknow.

Advocate Furqan Khan will be present in the trial court in Lucknow, according to the Legal Aid Committee of JUH.

Madani said that due to decades of Jamiat’s efforts, many terror accused have been released. All charges were quashed against them.

The Association for the Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), a civil rights advocacy group which was set up to defend the rights of the underprivileged and marginalized communities, said they will provide pro bono legal assistance to four Muslim men Maseerudeen, Minhaz, Shakeel and Mohammad Mueed on the request of their families.

In a note shared with Maktoob, the legal group said that the families of the arrested youth had outrightly denied allegations made by the UP ATS.

“They have maintained that their people are being falsely framed as terrorists with no firm evidence against them. All the suspects are from poor family backgrounds and some of them are the sole bread-winner of their families. These families have little means to pursue the legal fight for the innocence of their loved ones,” read APCR’s statement.

While talking to Hindustan Times, a family of member of Shakeel, one of the arrestees said that Shakeel has a clean record and never got involved in criminal activity in the past. “He is being framed because of being from a particular community,” the family member alleged.

The advocates associated with the APCR met the families of the arrested youth, and the Vakalatnamas were signed by their families. Advocate Najamus Saquib Khan will look after the case on behalf of APCR through a panel of lawyers.

“The protection of human rights which is the core of any counter-terrorism actions of the state is often undermined and neglected in case of suspects and accused of terror crimes and conspiracy,” APCR general secretary Malik Motasim Khan said.

“It has been seen in the past that the counter-terrorism efforts of our prime investigative agencies has failed to yield results in terms of convictions of person accused of terrorism but what it achieve is loss of precious years of life of innocents. The law to prevent terrorism is being used as a law to terrorise innocent marginalised people in other to demonize the communities,” Khan added.

The group said it strongly feels there is an urgent need to get rid of the fault lines in country’s criminal justice system by scrapping the unjust UAPA and other draconian laws which pose a serious threat to the civil liberties and human rights of individuals.