Mecca Masjid case: Hyd MP Owaisi meets Governor, delegation demands retrial

Speaking to reporters, Owaisi said that great injustice had occurred, as many innocent Muslim youth had been tortured after the terror attack took place.
Mecca Masjid case: Hyd MP Owaisi meets Governor, delegation demands retrial
Mecca Masjid case: Hyd MP Owaisi meets Governor, delegation demands retrial
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Hyderabad MP and All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi led a delegation on Thursday and met with Telangana and Andhra Pradesh Governor ESL Narasimhan to submit a memorandum seeking the re-trial of the accused in the Mecca Masjid bomb blast case.

The delegation comprised of 20 people including Owaisi and others like Charminar MLA Syed Ahmed Pasha Qadri and top officials of the Majlis-e-Ulema-e-Deccan, United Muslim Forum, Jamaat-e-Islami and Jamaat-ul-Ulema among other such groups.

Speaking to reporters, Owaisi said that great injustice had occurred, as many innocent Muslim youth had been tortured after the terror attack took place.

"We appealed to the Governor to ask the Centre for a retrial so that justice can be done. We hope that the accused will be punished," he said.

The case

On 18 May, 2007, as thousands gathered for the Friday prayers at Mecca Masjid, considered one of the holiest sites in the city, two blasts ripped through the mosque, killing nine people, injuring 58 others.

As news of the blast spread, tension escalated in the Old City, especially in the areas around Charminar, with many people taking to the streets. They turned into vandalising mobs and clashed with the police.

Police resorted to lathi-charge, lobbing of teargas shells, and firing in the air. Five more people were killed in subsequent police firing near the mosque.

Earlier this week, an NIA special court in Hyderabad acquitted 5 accused in the case, including main accused Swami Aseemanand, citing lack of evidence.

The Memorandum

Immediately after the blast, The Hyderabad city police picked up a few Muslim youth and allegedly tortured them for days and wrongly imprisoned them, before they were later acquitted by the court.

"Youth who were picked up by the police using questionable methods were ill-treated and were charged and tried. Later their acquittals followed and as they were in fact considered wrongly charged there was a face-saving salvage effort by the government via nominal “compensation” that too from funds of the Minorities Commission. It was clear there was no link between the detainees and the explosion, which cast a stigma on the investigating agencies, eroding the credibility of the investigative process as well as its concerned officials," the memorandum states.

The letter also stated that the investigation took several 'curious turns' as it was handled by multiple agencies.

"It was a most unfortunate aspect that one agency alleged another had “planted evidence” a serious matter that must excite the immediate and serious response by the Ministry of Home Affairs as well as the Ministry of External Affairs, since it is the credibility of the nation’s law enforcement mechanism and justice delivery system that is at stake before the international community," the letter added.

Speaking about the judgement itself, the memorandum states:

"The acquittal that resulted is therefore a matter of deep shock and from the judgement which appears that the judge has found fault with both the investigation as well as the conduct of the proceedings which was curiously, despite the sensational nature of the case and the wide-ranging impact of the resulting judgement on both communalism in the country as well as on terror and the apparent impunity with which certain sections of society are proceeding to terrorise and intimidate minorities, entrusted to an advocate who had no experience of acting as a prosecutor in criminal matters, besides which there have been questions raised about his affiliation with a student political outfit with right-wing leanings."

The memorandum also pointed out that no one was prosecuted for perjury even though several witnesses were known to have turned hostile during investigation.

The people who signed the memorandum said that several factors cast "serious doubt on the integrity of the investigation, the integrity of the proceedings, as also on the clear possibility, if not certainty, that the evidence has been deliberately projected in a less than convincing manner."

They also accused investigating agencies of ensuring "that persons with a certain political ideology are placed beyond the likelihood of conviction in order to give the euphemistical 'clean chit' to all those accused of serious crimes against minorities."

The delegation urged Narasimhan to use his post as Governor, to demand, "The investigation of the Mecca Masjid blast and related matters including but not restricted to the accusation of evidence being planted, be itself investigated."

The letter also stated that the entire investigation must be overseen by the Hyderabad High Court.

"Witnesses who turned hostile must be investigated for the reasons that led to their resiling from earlier statements, and allegations that the confessional statement of Swami Aseemanand was not free or voluntary or that the same was not considered as evidential material be investigated," the memorandum reads.

Demanding that the prosecutor must be selected from persons with wide criminal experience in the state, the letter also says that transparency must be ensured.

Justice Bhaskar Rao Commission

Following allegations that the police used excessive force after the blasts, which resulted in the death of five, the state government constituted the Justice Bhaskar Rao Commission in June 2010.

"As many as 90 rounds were fired by a dozen police personnel from Quick Response Teams and Task force using 6 SLRs, 4 .303 rifles and two pistols on unarmed persons," the memorandum claimed.

Though the Commission submitted its findings in October the same year, the present Telangana government is yet to make its findings public. 

There has been continuous pressure on successive state governments, to release the findings of the report, but to no avail.

"It is almost seven and a half years since the Commission report was submitted to the government. However, neither the government in erstwhile united AP nor the Government of Telangana has made the report of the Commission public, although it is statutory that the report of a Commission of Inquiry appointed under the Commissions of Inquiry Act is to be tabled in the State Legislature/Parliament as the case may be," the letter stated.

Addressing the Governor, the memorandum concluded saying, "We earnestly hope and trust that you would do the needful to help restore the confidence of the people of Telangana, particularly the minority communities, in the rule of law, fair play and justice."

Judge rejoins duty 

Meanwhile, in a related development, special NIA court judge K. Ravinder Reddy who tendered his resignation hours after the judgement, surprising legal and political circles, resumed duties on Thursday. 

The judge had cited ‘personal reasons’ for his resignation but his letter, which was sent to the Chief Justice of the Hyderabad High Court, was rejected.

The HC said that at least a 3-month notice must be given if the judge wanted to avail voluntary retirement and seek pension.

According to reports, Reddy would turn 58 years old in June this year and would become eligible to retire with full benefits, unless granted an extension.

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