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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 39, Dated 29 Sept 2012
    CURRENT AFFAIRS  
    SYED AHMED KAZMI

    ISRAEL EMBASSY CAR BLAST

    Is there a case against Kazmi?

    The Delhi Police Special Cell’s chargesheet in the Israeli Embassy car blast case is full of holes. G Vishnu tracks the bunglings and the flip-flops in the investigation

    Photo: AFP

    ON 6 MARCH this year, Delhi Police claimed a breakthrough in their investigation into the Israeli Embassy car blast case with the arrest of Syed Ahmed Kazmi, 50, a freelance Urdu journalist who specialised in West Asian affairs. Apart from a shocked family, it left the media fraternity bewildered at the police’s assertion that the arrest was cleared at the top level — with consent coming from the home ministry.

    Frame-up? Senior Urdu journalist Syed Ahmed Kazmi


    TEHELKA was amongst the first to raise questions on the police theory. Now, six months after Kazmi was arrested on charges of conspiring with the blast accused, a close look at the investigation and the chargesheet filed by the Delhi Police Special Cell raises serious doubts about the credibility of the case.

    On 13 February, a powerful explosion ripped through the car of Tal Yehoshua, wife of the Israeli defence attaché, on Aurangzeb Road, injuring her and the driver seriously. On 6 March, a week after Delhi Police revealed that they had names of the suspects, Kazmi was detained outside the India Islamic Centre, Lodhi Road. Just hours before his arrest, Syed Ahmed Kazmi was sitting in a television studio commenting on the building tension between the West and Iran. Since the arrest, his family has been running from pillar to post trying to prove Kazmi’s innocence.

    On the other hand, the Delhi Police — that has from the beginning termed the case as holding ‘international ramifications’ — has carried out investigations that are perplexing, to say the least. Whereas at first Delhi Police claimed that two other suspects were detained in Bangkok on 13 March, a 16 March press release by Delhi Police named four Iranian nationals. Kazmi was charged with conspiring with the other accused. It is unclear, to this day, who the detained suspects were.

    At the very outset, the chargesheet filed by the Special Cell reveals several loopholes. Consider one of the findings in the beginning: “On discreet enquiry, it was revealed that Syed Mohammed Ahmed Kazmi was out of the country during the latter half of February 2012,” it reads. But what the Special Cell found through ‘discreet enquiry’ was actually a media trip Kazmi had undertaken to Syria, as part of a 20-member delegation of journalists from India to assess the conflict there. “There was nothing discreet about it. We went to Damascus and Hama. More than a 100 journalists from all over the world were part of the Syrian government-sponsored trip,” says John Cherian, New Delhi bureau chief of Frontline.

    A more startling inconsistency comes from the testimony of witnesses. Tal Yehoshua, the Israeli victim of the attack, had stated that the attacker who planted the magnetic explosive device on her car was riding a ‘black, big/sporty motorcycle’. The chargesheet claims that Houshang Afshar Irani, the Iranian national who planted the bomb, hired the motorcycle for Rs 500 per day from the owner of Hotel High 5 Land — who too has claimed the colour of the bike to be black. At the same time, two other witnesses of the blast have stated the colour of the bike to be red. The Delhi Police has refrained from sticking to a particular colour of the bike.

    Even though it is claimed that Irani was in touch with Kazmi during 2011, Delhi Police has not substantiated it with any evidence, in the form of call records for instance.

    Although it was claimed that Irani was in touch with Kazmi, Irani’s call records were not attached in the chargesheet

    Another gaping hole comes in the form of the allegation made by Delhi Police, that traces of TNT were found in room No. 305 of Hotel High 5 Land, Karol Bagh, where Irani allegedly stayed from 29 January to 12 February 2012. “Delhi Police landed at the hotel on 26 February. Strangely, room No. 305 remained unoccupied all 14 days, even as all other rooms, including the adjacent ones, were occupied. How is it possible that even the cleaning staff never entered the room those 14 days?” asks Kazmi’s counsel, Mahmood Pracha. He goes on to point that whereas Delhi Police had earlier claimed that Irani left the country on 13 February, after the blast, details recorded in the chargesheet show that Irani left India on 29 February. Delhi Police, however, says it was an error in the cover letter of his air ticket (Malaysian Airlines). But Mahmood Pracha disagrees. “Even if we concede this, why hasn’t the Delhi Police attached immigration details from the Delhi airport in the chargesheet? Has the Iranian government even confirmed the authenticity of the passport? Do they even know who Afshar Irani really is?” asks Pracha.

    Also, Delhi Police’s claim that Kazmi received huge remuneration from a terrorist cell in Iran — a case being pursued by the Enforcement Directorate separately — is completely missing in the chargesheet. However, the police have maintained that Kazmi received $5,500 in Iran, to facilitate the bombing. This claim, however, is based on a custodial confession, which has no evidentiary value in a court of law.

    On 22 March, the Interpol international website issued Red Corner notices on four Iranian nationals — Houshang Afshar Irani, Seyed Ali Mahdiansadr, Mohammadreza Abolghasemi and Sedaghatzadeh Masoud — at India’s behest. On 16 March, the Delhi Police commissioner revealed that the Special Cell would go to Tehran and Bangkok to nab the accused. But they actually left for Tehran on 10 August, five months after the announcement. Delhi Police has remained tight-lipped about its findings so far.

    Also questionable is the manner in which Delhi Police almost agreed to Alon Yehoshua’s (husband of Tal) plea to release the car, a crucial piece of evidence. On 1 May, Kazmi’s counsel had to oppose the plea. The prime accused in the case had to oppose the release, and potential tampering, of the only piece of evidence of his own ‘crime’.

    By June, Delhi Police had filed four applications for the extension of Kazmi’s judicial custody. Since Kazmi was booked under Section 16/18 of Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (along with 120 (B) conspiracy and (3) Explosive Substance Act), the custody can be extended for 180 days before the chargesheet is filed. But the remand applications — required to detail each day of custodial inquiry — merely stated the purpose, never the progress.

    SUSTAINED IMPRISONMENT has taken a toll on Kazmi’s family; he was a crucial earning member of the family. The Chief Metropolitan Magistrate’s (CMM) court, on 1 May, even denied Mahmood Pracha files pertaining to the case. On 24 May, during a revision-petition by the defence to procure the case files, another court found that the remand papers were missing. The recordkeepers of the court claimed that they had misplaced the documents. However, the session court observed that the CMM’s order was in fact “illegal and fractious”.

    The family has been furnishing necessary details to the Enforcement Directorate explaining the foreign remittances to their bank accounts. The money, Kazmi’s wife claims, came from their eldest son, Ali Quazim, who’s based in Sharjah. She has also enclosed details of the tax filings done by Syed Kazmi in the past five years.

    On 11 September, in a bizarre twist, the Delhi Police Special Cell tried to arrest Kazmi’s nephew. “Some policemen in plainclothes tried to arrest my cousin as he was coming out of his house in Shaheen Bagh. They claimed to be from Mumbai ATS, but their ID cards said they were from the Special Cell,” alleges Shauzab. But the Delhi Police spokesperson has maintained that the said policemen were from Anti Auto-Theft Squad, and not the Special Cell. However, Kazmi’s family members are not buying the explanation. They feel it is just an intimidating tactic employed by the Special Cell to thwart their efforts in getting justice.

    G Vishnu is a Correspondent with Tehelka.
    vishnu@tehelka.com


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    From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 9, Issue 39, Dated 29 Sept 2012
 

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