SRINAGAR: An Ahmedabad city sessions court, on September 15, acquitted two Kashmir-based clerics accused in a 2006 case of spreading terrorism, The Indian Express reported. They were alleged to have trained under the Lashkar-e-Toiba to carry out “jihadi terrorist attacks” in retaliation for the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
The court, presided over by additional sessions judge Prashant Sheth, considered witness statements that did not support the prosecution’s claims. The court found no evidence that the two clerics, in collaboration with others, were plotting jihadi militants attacks or planning a proxy war on behalf of banned outfits LeT and SIMI.
The two clerics, Bilal Ahmed alias Bilal Kashmiri, arrested in 2021, and Saiyed Zabiuddin, arrested in 2012, both hailing from Baramulla, faced charges under IPC sections 120 (B) (criminal conspiracy), 121A (conspiring to commit offences against the state), 124 (assaulting president, governor, etc, with intent to compel or restrain the exercise of lawful power), and under provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. These charges stemmed from a complaint filed by Bharat Patel, the then sub-inspector of Ahmedabad Detection of Crime Branch (DCB), in 2006.
The court, as per The Indian Express also noted procedural lapses, such as the absence of prior information in the station diary, as well as the failure to record a panch witness and bring additional witnesses during Zabiuddin’s arrest in New Delhi when he was in judicial custody for another offense.
Two chargesheets were filed by the DCB, one in 2013 and another in 2021, against a total of 23 accused, including a juvenile. The allegations included affiliation with banned organizations SIMI and LeT, with claims of planning to cause chaos and harm “national dignitaries in Gujarat.”
In prior rulings, two accused were acquitted by a sessions court in March 2021, and another in April 2022.
The FIR at DCB police station, based on intelligence sourcing, asserted that “Muslim youths from Kashmir and other states were involved in terror activities, with contacts and allies active in Ahmedabad and elsewhere in Gujarat.” The FIR indicated that Imran Kashmiri and Bashir Kashmiri, both LeT operatives, were being sent to Kashmir, Pakistan, and Bangladesh to train Muslim youths in terror activities. They were purportedly establishing a terror organization network in Ahmedabad.
It was also alleged that Ilyas Memon, a resident of Shah Alam area in Ahmedabad, was in contact with Imran Kashmiri and received terror training in Kashmir and Bangladesh.
A total of 30 prosecution witnesses testified, including then ACP of Ahmedabad city police GL Singhal, who had investigated the case following the FIR.