On April 20, 2007, Mohd Shafi’s son Shabbir had gone on his regular trip to Jammu from their home in Bhadarwah, Doda District, to buy utensils for their crockery shop. When he did not return, Shafi went to Jammu to look for him.
Five days later, he saw pictures of his son and another man from his village on a news channel. The news reader said the two were members of Lashkar-e-Taiba and had been arrested in Delhi carrying RDX, detonators, grenades and cash for a fidayeen attack in the Capital.
On Friday, after a five-year trial, Shabbir Ahmed and Shafaquat Iqbal were acquitted by a Delhi court. The court of Additional Sessions Judge Savita Rao acquitted Ahmed, Iqbal and Pakistani national Mohd Hassan, of all terror charges. Hassan, however, has been convicted under the Foreigner’s Act for entering the country illegally.
A day after their release, families of Ahmed and Iqbal claimed they were detained in Jammu. MS Khan, advocate for the defence said the two men were picked up from Jammu and illegally detained for five days before being brought to Delhi and arrested under false charges. Iqbal’s wife Rabiya told the Indian Express over the phone that her husband was a carpenter and he had gone to Jammu to buy supplies. Shafi claimed that his son had told him that the two were picked up by some people in plain clothes from a market in Jammu.
However, the Special Cell had alleged that the three ‘terrorists’ had been arrested outside Dilli Haat in South Delhi. They claimed that they got a tip-off which said on the instructions of Abu Ammar, the “operational commander” of LeT in Jammu and Kashmir, an LeT operative was arriving in Delhi to deliver a consignment of arms and explosives to a Pakistani fidayeen.
Police had said Iqbal had been identified by an “informer” as the LeT operative and was apprehended with Shabbir while handing over the material to Hassan.
However, the court said the testimonies of different witnesses were contradictory and the “public witnesses” who were supposedly present at the time of arrest had also admitted during cross examination that they were not present and had only been shown three arrested persons. The FIR itself was held to be ante dated. The Special Cell ACP had also admitted that there was no evidence to establish the existence of the secret informants.
“There is nothing on record to establish link of any of the accused persons with Abu Ammar or terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba except for the mere assertion of prosecution witnesses,” the court said.
The court also noted that Sarojini Nagar police station, whose personnel were posted at the Dilli Haat, had not been contacted by the Special Cell and no one had noticed any unusual activity during the alleged eight-hour operation.
The officer in-charge of storage of seized property has also testified that he was not informed that case property contained live detonators and grenades. The court also observed that there were no immediate steps to defuse the explosives seized, which “raises suspicion about the activities of the police officers”. There was also an 81-day delay in sending the case property for expert opinion, the court said while acquitting the men.