JUH and APCR: Two different tracks which responded to the call of justice

    This special TCN series highlights some of the example cases of people accused of terrorism and their struggle for justice. This series is sponsored by Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC).

    By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net

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    Innocent Muslim youths have time and again come out innocent of terrorism charges although after years of protracted legal battles with the State. Legal assistance in the courts for those youths often from poor economic background plays a crucial role in the fight for justice.

    Many Muslim and Civil rights organizations have started taking up these terror cases when most of them turn out to be concocted police cases with many innocent youths getting arrested without any proper evidence or investigation.

    L-R: Gulzar Azmi, Yasmin Ansari, wife of Fahim Ansari, and Usman Ansari, brother of Fahim Ansari in Jamiat office in Mumbai

    Jamiat-ul-Ulema Hind (JUH) has travelled a long way since participating in Indian independence movement and opposing two nation theories to now fighting for rights of Muslims in the democratic India. Maulana Arshad Madani faction of JUH has gained good reputation for fighting terror cases on behalf of accused Muslim youths in the court of law. They deserved that repute not just for flashing money for accused who can’t effort advocates but for continuous serious legal fights which resulted in many acquittals and demolition of concocted terror cases in the court of law, as of now JUH stands as main organization which is providing legal aid and fighting terror cases across the Indian spectrum.

    Gulzar Azmi, Gen. Secretary of Jamiat Ulema Maharashtra, heads the National Legal Cell of the organization, the reason behind JUH fighting terror cases he said, “We found innocent Muslim youths has been framed in many fictitious terror conspiracy cases, and with keeping those cases in front whole Muslim community is being demonized and labeled as anti-nationals. Even many relatives of the accused started approaching us for help therefore we decided to take up these cases.”

    He also added that slain Advocate Shahid Azmi played an important role in convincing Maulana Arshad Madani for JUH to monitor vast number of terror cases which has stretched throughout India.

    Jamiat with team of its advocate’s handled nearly 26 high profile terror cases from across India, like 26/11 Mumbai attack, 7/11 train blasts, Aurangabad Arms Haul, 2006 Malegaon Blast, Akshardham Mandir Attack Case, Haren Pandya Murder Case, American Center Attack Case, Ahmedabad Blasts Case, Zaveri Bazar Blast, Rampur CRPF Camp Attack Case and Ghatkopar Blast Case. In addition to this Jamiat also delivered legal support and bailed out numerous Muslim youths from Maharashtra, Rajasthan and Gujarat who have been arrested in terror conspiracy cases branding them SIMI or IM members.

    Their biggest achievement so far has been the acquittal of Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed in 26/11 attack case which JUH fought till the Supreme Court even after subsequent state appeals against their acquittals in lower courts. Malegaon 2006 Blast Case was also a big boost for Jamiat where they were able to bail out nine of the eleven accused from a MACOCA court by paying 50,000 bail bonds for each, Jamiat also received partial success in American Center Attack Case which is now pending in the Supreme Court.

    But JUH Legal Cell Head add cautiously that they don’t legally assist any terror accused blindly, “When we gets satisfied that innocent Muslims is being framed in the terror cases, then only we take up the matter.” Recently JUH decided to take up 13/7 Mumbai Triple Blast Case after getting satisfied that ATS falsely framed the accused as terrorist. The kin of Himayat Baig who is awarded death sentence by Pune court in 2010 German Bakery blast case also approached JUH for legal aid, Azmi said JUH is looking into their request and only after studying his legal documents a decision will be taken, “Our policy is very clear. We extend legal aid only if we are convinced that the person is innocent.”

    Gulzar Azmi said in all these years of rendering legal service through JUH he observed one particular thing common in almost all the terror accused, “Most of them are from very poor economic background, many of whom couldn’t even afford a lawyer, due to their financial status they would have relied on advocates provided by the court, but how serious those Govt. advocates will be on the case, we all know.”

    Jamiat also went on against ATS to prosecute by filing complaint against its officers for harassing relatives of terror accused, Saeedun Nisa a slum dweller from Shivajinagar Mumbai whose husband is in jail for past seven years for 7/11 blast case allegedly suffered severe harassment from ATS officer whom she said use to raid her hut whenever desired and use to beat her children. She with the help of JUH filed a petition with the city commissioner of police and MACOCA court for compensation for mental harassment by ATS officers.

    JUH has been in the forefront of challenging the ATS terror trio of 2006- Aurangabad Arms Haul (May), 7/11 Blasts (July), Malegaon Blasts (September). In this 2006 terror trio many Muslim youths were arrested for allegedly being SIMI members (IM was not invented by then) strong legal battle in the court has demolished ATS concocted terror theories in the court and left them humiliated.

    But for even taking ATS head on Gulzar Azmi said JUH never faced any threat from the Govt. or the security agencies, the reason he believes, “We got the support of Muslim community, our community respect us for what we are doing, as long as community is supporting us we have nothing to fear.” Mr. Azmi also adds that all the financial burdens of legal combats in terror cases are endured by community members, “For fighting this number of terror cases with such serious degree of offences charged, it requires crore’s of rupees to assist legal aid across India, and that has been provided by the Muslim community themselves through generous donations.”

    Mr. Azmi said the foundation of Jamiat-ul-Ulema was laid down to wage ‘Jihad’ against tyrant ruler, he believes Jamiat by fighting this terror cases on behalf of innocent Muslim youths in court of law, is taking forward that legacy.

    Association for Protection of Civil Rights (APCR), which was formed in 2006 took up many civil rights awareness campaigns across India, but its Karnataka chapter formed in 2008 played an active and commendable role in providing legal aid to Muslim youths accused in terrorism which often resulted in exposing security agencies foul play.

    Syed Akmal Rizvi secretary of APCR Karnataka said first few hours after the arrest is the most critical one and in terror cases they are the crucial factor. He said most of the time in terror arrest police doesn’t follows rules which give them scope to plant evidence against the accused. His organization provides legal awareness regarding arrest procedure, the duty of the police to inform the relatives of the detainee and to produce the detainee in front of magistrate within 24 hours of the arrest, thus by informing about their basic rights they try to avoid eventuality of getting framed.

    APCR’s major achievement which caught national attention was their successful legal fight in Bangalore Terror Conspiracy Case which resulted in the release of main accused’s without any charges, whom police was earlier terming as masterminds, LeT and HuJI militants. “Just because journalist Mutti ur Rehman and DRDO researcher Aijaz Ahmed Mirza were involved this case got lot of attention, but we are providing legal aid since 2008.”

    APCR’s first encounter with terror case occurred in 2008 when it decided to take up Hubli Terror Conspiracy Case where many highly educated Muslim youths were arrested on the charges of being SIMI hit squad members. Since past five years that case is hanging in legal disorder. “We got the orders from High Court for speedy trial in this Hubli Terror Case, but the trial in sessions court kept on delaying, we then approached Supreme Court and got another order for fast trial, but the attitude of session court remain callous,” said Akmal Rizvi.

    He said according to amendment in Sec 436A introduced in the CrPC Amendment Act 2005 those accused persons who have been in prison for one half of the maximum term of sentence they could serve if convicted, will automatically be eligible for bail. APCR has filed a petition to Karnataka High Court Chief Justice citing the amendment with reference to Hubli Terror Case to direct all the lower courts to speed up their trials or release accused who are eligible for bail under the amended act.

    APCR said they are undertaking initiatives to educate relatives of the accused languishing in jail without any proper trail about Sec 436A which empowers them to acquire bail. Rizvi believes if used properly this amendment would help many Muslim families as major prison population is comprised of them.

    After receiving recommendation from Advocate Narayan Pancholi, APCR also started monitoring trial in Chinaswami stadium blast case which unfortunately stuck with the magistrate who doesn’t have authority to look into the case, “We are trying hard to see trial starts as soon as possible.”

    APCR Secretary believes that terror cases dose have a political motive behind it, “Hubli Terror Conspiracy Case occurred just before the elections, Bangalore Terror Conspiracy Case happened when Yeddyurappa became a dissenter. I can’t prove it but I have a feeling that terror cases are related to electoral politics and polarization of votes.”

    And according to him no one is angel in this electoral terror game, “Both congress and BJP are hand in glove in this matter, both try to extract gains from tragedy, after terror attack BJP demonizes Muslim community to gain votes by polarization, whereas Congress scares Muslims of consequences and present as their protector to get their votes.”

    APCR is also active in other civil rights issues e.g. against women trafficking

    APCR claims that standard procedure is being followed in every terror case where whole case will be based on confessional statement given in police custody, and chargesheet start with accused person belonging to so community and profess this faith. They feel bias in the system is rampant.

    All their work doesn’t go unnoticed with the establishment, APCR received threat calls and emails from police station to Lashkar-e-Taiba, “I am protected somewhat from any intimidation because I am lawyer, officer of the court, but our state convener Irshad Ahmed Desai faced severe problems, he even received threat calls from Banaswadi Police Station, we have field a complain, investigation is pending.”

    When police threatening didn’t work APCR started receiving warning mails from supposedly secretary of Lashkar-e-Taiba, they went ahead and filed another complaint, “This kind of things happens one should not couch down, we have to fight back, APCR activists working on ground level are brave.”

    According to APCR Karnataka it has a set of volunteers who will conduct workshops on how legal system works in India, specific information is being provided about D.K. Basu judgment and the precautions to be taken when a person gets arrested. In addition to this, information campaign is also been done to make PDS and RTI more popular. The most important work of their activist according to APCR is during communal tensions where their volunteers are active to prevent any clashes by giving representations to district authorities, and filing cases against hate mongers.

    At the same time Akmal Rizvi said Muslim NGO’s should not indulge in fundamentalism, which according to him is working only for the cause of Muslims, “More than Muslims, Dalits, Tribals and Women are the major victim of civil rights violation, Muslim NGO’s should also raise those issues.” He said justice is a corner stone for good relationships and Muslims should wave off their victimhood and must stand for fight for justice of other oppressed communities. APCR believes common fight against oppression will make sure justice prevails and it will make India a better place to live in.