Srinagar, Sept 23: Ahmedabad city sessions court acquitted two Kashmir-based clerics, Bilal Ahmed alias Bilal Kashmiri and Saiyed Zabiuddin, who were accused in a 2006 case of alleged involvement in terrorism activities.
Bilal Ahmed, also known as Bilal Kashmiri, was arrested in 2021, and Saiyed Zabiuddin was arrested in 2012 from Baramulla.
The case alleged that they had undergone training under the Lashkar-e-Toiba to carry out "jihadi terrorist attacks" as retaliation for the loss suffered by Muslims during the post-Godhra 2002 riots.
The court of additional sessions judge Prashant Sheth arrived at its verdict by considering the lack of supporting witness statements for the prosecution's claim that the accused, in collusion with others, had planned or participated in jihadi terror attacks or were plotting a proxy war on behalf of the banned groups LeT and SIMI.
The charges against the two clerics included offenses under IPC sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 121A (conspiracy against the state), 124 (assault on the president, governor, etc., with the intent to compel or restrain the exercise of lawful power), and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. These charges stemmed from an FIR filed in 2006 by Bharat Patel, who was then the sub-inspector of Ahmedabad detection of crime branch (DCB).
The court also noted that certain procedural lapses had occurred during the investigation. These included the absence of recorded prior information in the station diary, as submitted by Bharat Patel, and the failure to involve a panch witness when arresting Zabiuddin, who was in judicial custody in New Delhi for another offense at the time.
The DCB had filed two chargesheets in this case, one in 2013 and another in 2021.
A total of 23 individuals were accused in this case, including a juvenile offender. The allegations against them included affiliation with the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) and LeT. The prosecution had claimed that the accused had conspired to create chaos and target national dignitaries in Gujarat.
It is worth noting that two accused were previously acquitted by a sessions court in March 2021, and another was acquitted in April 2022.
The FIR filed at DCB police station, based on intelligence sources, alleged that "Muslim youths from Kashmir and other states were involved in terror activities, and their contacts and allies were active in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in Gujarat."
It further stated that two LeT youth operatives named Imran Kashmiri and Bashir Kashmiri were sent to Kashmir, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to train Muslim youths in terror activities. They were purportedly establishing a network of a terror organization in Ahmedabad.
The case saw the examination of a total of 30 prosecution witnesses, including the deposition of then ACP of Ahmedabad city police, GL Singhal, who had also investigated the case following the filing of the FIR.