12 yrs in jail and counting: Story of Amir – a victim of war on terror

By Md Ali, TwoCircles.net,

New Delhi: “I won’t leave this house without seeing my son, Amir…I have been waiting for him since last 12 years… one day I will meet him…even on my death bed.”

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Unable to speak, because of being unwell, this was what Maimuna Bi told this correspondent. Even when they were just broken words, she was trying very hard to speak about how her son was picked up illegally by Delhi police 12 years ago; how the police tortured him and then forced him to confess in terror cases and how they didn’t allow a mother to meet her only son. She was allowed just to see him from a distance.

Amir Khan in 1997

Behind those old eyes of hers, I couldn’t fail to see years of pain and humiliation which she had to face as a mother of “dreaded terrorist.” In 2004 her husband died of broken heart as he couldn’t bear the tension and social boycott. For four years she fought the legal battles for her son but unable to handle the mental pressure and tension, she had a brain hemorrhage in 2008 because of which she lost the ability to speak.

She doesn’t even know when her son will be free but the only thing which gets her going, is the hope that a day will come when she will embrace her only son.

This is one of the worst examples of oppression on poor and vulnerable Muslim families by our security agencies and police in the highly unfair war against terrorism in the country. And worst of all, it is also classic instance of monumental failure of the Indian judicial system, the last hope of these defenseless to get justice.

Maimuna Bi without a regular income doesn’t have money even to afford a lawyer, let alone a good lawyer to get her son’s release on bail. Her entire world is just a room which can collapse any time. Its ceiling has shifted to the danger zone and its walls have cracked from many sides but she has no means to repair it. She cannot walk. With no body to look after her, she is left to the mercy of her neighbors. Her only daughter Salma visits her sometimes.

This story is as much about Maimuna Bi’s tragedy, as it is about injustice done to her son Amir.

One day this correspondent met Amir at Teeshazari Court in Delhi. He was there for the hearing of his case. His face betrayed the pain and helplessness he has gone through. Amir narrated the story of physical and mental torture he was made to go through in jail in the last 12 years.

No media ever covered him

You might not know Mohammad Amir Khan because no media ever cared to cover him.

With moist eyes and on the verge of crying, Amir said: “This is the first time in last 12 years of lonely prison that anybody has become interested in my case. Neither any journalist nor any activists has ever come to meet me. I had lost hope of becoming free one day but now I have hope that you will do something. I am a very poor man and I don’t have anything to give you in lieu for what you can do for me. I can only give you dua of a broken heart.”

“Police has falsely and illegally implicated me in many terror cases just to find any scapegoat. I have been made to go through extreme physical and mental torture since last 12 years. I am completely innocent. I have been acquitted by the Court in most of the cases. In spite of being innocent I have spent last 12 years of my life in jail, as an under-trial. In this period because of tension and societal pressure my father died of heart attack but I, his only son, couldn’t attend even his last rites,” he added.

Picked up at the age of 18

For others it might appear as a scene from somebody’s worst nightmare but for Mohammad Amir Khan, this is the reality of his torture and helplessness he has been forced to live with since last 12 years.

It was on that fateful night of February 20, 1998, when after performing Isha prayer, Amir had gone out to buy some medicine. But little did he know that he won’t come back to home for next 12 years of his life. Amir, who was just 18 then, was picked up by Delhi Police sleuths from the Bahadurgarh area of Old Delhi that night.

Illegally detained, tortured and forced to sign blank papers

He was taken to an undisclosed location where he was illegally detained and heavily tortured till 27 February 1998.

“It’s just impossible for me to describe the physical torture I was made to go through, after which I was threatened and forced to sign few papers, which I later got to know, were my confession statements,” he told quietly.

“At those times the BJP led NDA government was in power at the Center”, he reminded me. “It was only on 27 February, 1998, that I was presented in Teeshazari Court and police remanded me but there was no end to torture. It was much later I got to know that I have been made the main accused in many serial blasts occurred in Delhi and NCR during the period of 1996-97,” he added.

Amir Khan in 2010 [Courtesy: Roznama Sahara]

Couldn’t get lawyer because of terror phobia and lack of money

In the initial days of his arrest, he couldn’t get any lawyer to represent him because of being a terror suspect. Even when he got few lawyers, they left him because he was unable to pay their fee on time. Finally ND Pancholi, a prominent human rights lawyer, has been looking after his case since last six years.

Acquitted in Delhi blasts

From February 1998 till 2006 he remained in Tihar Jail, in solitary confinement, when finally in 2006 the Delhi High court freed him as innocent, from all the charges which were mainly related to various blasts in Delhi. It was when he was about to leave Tihar Jail that he was told that UP Police has made him a main accused in Frontier Mail blasts that happened on January 10, 1997. “It was as if police was waiting for me because I was the most easily available to be made accused in other cases,” he added.

At present there are just three cases against him, of which the Frontier mail blast case is the most prominent one. The rest two cases are related to minor blasts in Haryana.

Amir completely innocent, case against him is ‘weak’

ND Pancholi told TwoCircles.net that Amir is completely innocent. He has been “falsely implicated by the police because he is poor and also because he was easily available to the police to be made as scapegoat.” The prosecution’s case against Amir is not strong.

“The whole case is based upon the Amir’s confession taken by the police through torture confession. Of 43 witnesses in this case 19 have been presented by the prosecution but till now they couldn’t recognize Amir as the accused,” he added.

An endless wait for him

It has been a case of endless and existential wait for him because of which he is suffering from depression and severe mental tension. In the letter he writes, ‘because I have been in solitary confinement since more than a decade, I don’t know anything of being young. It has affected my human nature, and from my boyhood when I was just 18, I will directly become old.”

Date after date in court

The slow pace of cases in Indian courts has made it slow for him to prove his innocence. In the Frontier Mail bomb blast case from May 25, 2007 when he was first charge- sheeted, there have been around 109 hearings in which out of 43, just 19 witnesses have been produced in court. This is happening even when Allahabad High Court asked the Ghaziabad district court to speed up his trial, almost on daily basis but it had no effect on the District court.

Allahabad HC pulled up Ghaziabad DJ but no effect

Hearing Amir’s petition for speedy trial, Justice Barkat Ali Zaidi of Allahabad High Court had slammed Ghaziabad District Judge for his inability “to locate that the trial under the aforesaid offenses is being delayed so callously.”

Maimuna Bi

In an order dated February 26, 2007, the Allahabad HC had asked the Ghaziabad District Judge to ‘ensure expeditious and speedy trial’ and ‘personally monitor the progress of the case and keep the court informed of the progress of the case every month till concluded.’

The HC had asked the District Judge to report to the Court as to why the case has been “pending for such a long time…and “as to why the petitioner was not summoned from jail, even once, during the period of 9-10 years?”

Can get bail but doesn’t have money

Mr. Pancholi told this correspondent that Amir can easily get bail from Allahabad High court because he has already been in jail since last 12 years and the case against him is weak. But that requires money to be given to the lawyer who will file the bail plea, something which Amir can’t afford in the present financial condition.

Inam Khan is Amir’s only relative who is helping him out, with whatever little he can as per his own financial capacity. He told TCN that he has neither money nor any one from whom he can borrow some money to get Amir out on bail.

Mr. Pancholi pointed out that recently the prosecution has filed a plea in the court that it will present all the witnesses of the case. So now it has become very important for Amir to get out on bail because this case may take another 4-5 years and who knows even more, considering the speed of progress of the case, to be finished.

His co-accused poisoned in jail

It’s important to mention here that Mohammed Shakeel, Amir’s co accused in the 1996 Frontier Mail bomb blast case, was poisoned in custody in Dasna Jail in Ghaziabad. The jail superintendent had claimed that Shakeel had committed suicide. His body was found hanging from the ceiling of his cell on June 19, 2009.