Jailbreak bid: Sabarmati jail staff under scanner
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The investigators, who will begin questioning the accused from Wednesday, suspect that either there was not enough patrolling or the jail staff had become "too friendly" with the undertrial prisoners, sources said.
Fourteen of the 66 alleged members of Indian Mujahideen and SIMI, lodged in the jail for their role in the 2008 serial blasts that killed 56 people in Ahmedabad, were booked for the jailbreak attempt after it was found they had dug a tunnel that was nearly six feet deep and over 26-ft long.
A top crime branch official said the tunnel dug so far was about 150 feet away from the main compound wall of the jail on the rear side where Chandrabhaga river, which is now a sewer, once flowed.
"They would have had to break the wall of their barrack whose foundation is 10 feet deep and then the main wall of the jail to escape, or they could have crawled out from the drainage line to this sewer," said an officer.
Joint commissioner of police (crime) A K Sharma said the trial court had given us 10 days, beginning tomorrow (Wednesday), to police to question the accused inside the jail. Movement of the blast accused is restrained by the court and even the trial is held inside the jail premises.
An official said, "There is definitely a lapse. How else did the extra pile of earth in the jail garden go unnoticed for so long when there was no requisition for soil made by the jail authorities?"
"Either they became too friendly or were overconfident," the official said about the jail staff. The police have also recovered steel dishes that were bent to serve as spades, iron rods and a log of wood which the undertrials allegedly used as tools.
Meanwhile, the 14 prisoners who were lodged together in barrack no 4 of the Chhota Chakkar, where they attempted to escape from, have been shifted to another part of the jail. They have been booked for conspiracy and under Section 224 of the IPC that deals with attempting to escape from custody, an offence punishable by a two-year imprisonment.
Sources said that Usman Agarbatti, a civil engineer and one of the accused lodged in the barrack, is the mastermind behind the plan.
The jail has twice its capacity of prisoners.
Mother not allowed to meet accused
Hameeda Sheikh, mother of Imran Sheikh, one of the alleged Indian Mujahideen members accused in the jailbreak case, on Tuesday came from Vadodara to meet her only son in Sabarmati Central Jail but was not allowed in.
Imran is among the 14 accused in the serial blast cases of July 26, 2008, who were booked for digging a 26-ft tunnel in Gujarat's biggest high-security prison, purportedly to escape.
Hameeda, whose husband died a few years ago of a heart attack, said it was a conspiracy to frame her son.
"It is all part of a larger conspiracy to ensure that the accused do not get bail," she told reporters, adding that the hearing in the five-year-old case had begun and bail applications of some of the accused were pending before the courts.
"It is a well-planned conspiracy to influence certain quarters against the accused and frame them in a new case so that they remain in jail," she said. She claimed that the accused, as per jail rules, were let out of their barracks only between 6 am and 12 pm and 3 pm and 6 pm. "For full 15 hours, the accused remained inside their barracks and the jail staff could go and check what they had done outside their barracks where they are alleged to have dug tunnel," she said.
Kutub Sheikh, a relative of Zahid Sheikh, also accused in the tunnel digging case, echoed Hameeda and said the version of prison officials was not believable at all.
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