Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Last man in custody in Ghatkopar 2002 bus blast case walks free

Taj-ul-Islam Siddiqui

Mateen Hafeez TNN

Mumbai: Taj-ul-Islam Siddiqui, the ninth and the last accused in custody in connection with the 2002 Ghatkopar BEST bomb blast that killed two and injured 49, walked free on Saturday after the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court discharged him in the case. A software engineer by profession, Siddiqui spent 10 months in prison. 

    Siddiqui (39), a father of five, is from Hyderabad. His name first cropped up in the probe in 2003 when an accused spoke about him. The
police, though, could not trace him. On November 22, 2012, based on a tip-off, the city’s crime branch picked up Siddiqui from Hyderabad and brought him to Mumbai. He was booked under various sections of POTA and the Explosives Act. He was shown as a conspirator in the blast that ripped a BEST bus apart on December 2, 2002, outside Ghatkopar railway station. 

    “We filed an application before the POTA court stating that we wanted to discharge Siddiqui,” said Niket Kaushik, additional commissioner of police, crime branch. Siddiqui was re
leased on bail in April this year and since then, he has been attending court on his hearing dates. A police officer said they made a thorough inquiry but since no evidence against Siddiqui was found in the blast case, they discharged him. At the time of his arrest, Siddiqui was employed with a reputed firm. He lost his job after his employer learnt of his arrest.
    Investigators had claimed to have seized his laptop. Initially, the officers said they had found clippings of the Babri Masjid demolition and the 2002 Gujarat riots on his lap
top, other than some information on a terror group. However, later they realized that Siddiqui had nothing to do with the case.

    In 2003, the crime branch had arrested the other accused, including Dr Abdul Mateen, electronics engineer Mohammed Altaf and civil engineer Zaheer Shaikh, from Marathwada.  The accused said they had been wrongly framed in the case.  The Union government then constituted a POTA review committee, which heard their case. They were subsequently acquitted. 
    The crime branch police said one of the accused, Khwaja Yunus, an electronics engineer, had fled from police custody.  Dr Mateen, though, alleged that Yunus was tortured to death in custody. Based on his statement, the POTA court ordered the state CID to file a murder case against certain policemen. Aziz Rasheed alias Imran, another accused, was shot dead in a police encounter in Hyderabad. The state government had approached the high court against the eight acquittals. The appeal is pending.

BLAST TOLL On December 2, 2002, a bomb exploded in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar, killing two and injuring 49. The police booked
29 accused
under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) and the Explosives Act

CHARGESHEET IN THE CASE The Mumbai crime branch filed two chargesheets in the Ghatkopar blasts case against 18 accused in 2003 and one in 2012
DISCHARGED ON SATURDAY Taj-ul-Islam Siddiqui (39) was arrested on November 23, 2012, and chargesheeted a month later. Siddiqui, a software engineer from Hyderabad, is a father of five. He worked with a reputed firm at the time of his arrest last year. He was discharged by the POTA court on Saturday
Eight more are still on the run  
Ten were discharged and eight were acquitted between 2003 and 2005, including Dr Abdul Mateen, electronics engineer Mohammed Altaf, civil engineer Zaheer Shaikh and others

While Siddiqui was arrested last year, the others were arrested between 2002 and 2003
The Union government constituted a POTA
review committee that heard the case at state guest house Sahyadri, and did not find any evidence against the eight. They were acquitted  
Another accused, electronics engineer Khwaja Yunus, was killed during alleged torture in Mumbai police custody, Dr Mateen told the court. Based on his statement, an FIR for murder was filed against certain cops. The case is pending
Another accused, Aziz Rasheed alias Imran, was killed in a police encounter in Hyderabad in 2004  
‘He would not dare hurt a fly’
Tdischarged aj-ul-Islam Siddiqui in the , Ghatkopar blast case, is a man of few words. Seated in his rented flat in Toli Chowki, Hyderabad, Siddiqui said, “Yes, I lost my job on account of the arrest. I have indeed faced problems.” There is relief in Al Hasanath Colony, where Siddiqui has lived for the past six years. Shaikh Abdullah, president of Al Hasanath Colony Welfare Association, said residents remembered him as a ‘quiet man who would not dare hurt
a fly’.

The Times of India, August 14, 2013

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