The families of five Muslim youth who were arrested by Uttar Pradesh Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS) over “al-Qaeda module”, have outrightly denied the allegations made by the investigation agency and maintained that their kin are being falsely framed as terrorists with no firm evidence against them, demanding an immediate release of all the ‘wrongfully arrested.’
The two men, Minhaz Ahmad and Maseeruddin, were arrested on 11 July by UP 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.
Speaking to media, at the press club in state capital Lucknow on Thursday, mother of Shakeel said her son, a daily wager, is being framed by Uttar Pradesh police. She has been unwell since the arrest of her son.
“Our life took a turn for the worse when the cops arrested my husband on terror charges,” Ambreen, Shakeel’s wife said.
“He 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,” Shakeel’s brother Iliyas said. 35 year old Shakeel was earning a livelihood by driving an e-rickshaw.
“He (Shakeel) picked up passengers for Rs 5 to feed his family. If he was working for a terror outfit, why would he be so poor. These charges have been framed with politics in mind,” he further said.
Uzma, wife of Mueed told reporters that her husband was arrested for a crime he didn’t commit.
“Both Hindus and Muslims in our neighbourhood are providing food to us since the day of my husband’s arrest. Isn’t it a proof of his innocence?” asks Uzma.
50 year old e-rickshaw driver Maseeruddin is the oldest among the arrestees.
At press club, Sayeeda, wife of Mohibullapur resident Maseeruddin shared her ordeal with investigating cops.
She said: “He (Maseeruddin ) was standing outside our house when ATS people took him with them. Our 11-year-old daughter ran after them to enquire. The cops just kept saying they were taking my husband for questioning and he would return soon. Later, they ransacked our house. In fact, they saw the pressure cooker earlier too and said it was not related to any terror activity. Shockingly, the ATS officials claimed it to be an evidence.”
While speaking to media at the press club, Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey said that the way the investigating officers’ recovery of pressure cookers was publicised after the arrests in the name of Al Qaeda, it seemed that “keeping this essential item in the house has become a crime under this government”.
30 year old Minhaz Ahmad was arrested with Maseeruddin from Lucknow. Minhaz is a diploma holder in electrical engineering and was running a battery shop in Lucknow’s Dubagga locality.
Minhaz’s parents Siraj and Talat Fatima were present at the press meet. While denying the claims of ATS, the duo told reporters that their son had undergone a surgery for hernia in March and was on rest since then.
“They have framed my son and have made up a false story to accuse him of serious allegations,” said Siraj.
Another woman who was present at the press meet, was a physically-challenged person for the last 18 years. While interacting to presser, she said her husband Mohammad Mustakeem was framed by UP ATS. She discharged the ‘terror charges’ on her husband and said she had only her husband to support her.
The press conference organised by human rights group Rihai Manch. Manch’s president Advocate Mohammad Shoaib was also present at the press conference. Shoaib’s group has been providing legal help to victims of hate crimes and also those implicated in fabricated cases.
“The fresh arrests in the name of busting terrorism seem to be done after similar planning by security agencies,” Shoaib alleged. He said: “I was done during the 2017 elections by showing the encounter of Saifullah in Lucknow’s Haji colony.”
Jamiat Ulama, APCR to give legal aid
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”.
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.
“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.
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.