//Relatives of 7/11 accused allege torture, probe ordered

Relatives of 7/11 accused allege torture, probe ordered

Menaka Rao, Indian Express,October 11, 2006

Mumbai, October 10: Maharashtra’s Director General of Police P S Pasricha is looking into the allegations of torture and brutality by the Mumbai police in the 7/11 investigations after relatives of the accused and suspects filed sworn affidavits with the Prime Minister’s Office and Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh’s office.

The DGP was asked by Deshmukh to look into the allegations of torture. The CM forwarded the copies of 10 affidavits to DGP Pasricha in the last week of September. Pasricha said, “I recently received the affidavits. It needs a thorough probe. I can’t say anything about it unless I have looked into the matter in detail.”

After the families filed the affidavits in September, a delegation of eight Muslim MPs had met the Chief Minister. The police were then instructed not to harass the Muslim community in general and the city police chief, A N Roy, circulated a letter to the Muslim leaders in Urdu, asking them to contact him in case of any complaints or grievances.

The relatives, including those of the alleged kingpins Faisal and Muzammil Sheikh, alleged that police used “fourth-degree” methods, holding women and old relatives hostage to extract confessions from the accused or ensure the arrests of suspects.

“Such methods were used during the investigation of 1993 blasts as well.

These people have been brave to come forward and file affidavits. These affidavits will obviously hold,” said human rights activist advocate Maharukh Adenwalla.

Faisal Sheikh, who allegedly planted the bomb in the Jogeshwari train, and his brother Muzammil were arrested on July 27. However, the family’s nightmare began on July 20 when the police raided their Mira Road residence at 9:30 pm.

As per the affidavit filed by their 61-year-old father, Ata-ur Rehman Sheikh, some officers claiming to be from ATS, picked him up and detained him at the Kurla ATS office (police station) for several days.

“In the police station, the officers tied me on the floor and mercilessly beat me up with belts and sticks in front of my sons so as to extract their confessions. They brought my wife, my daughter Aliya and my daughter-in-law Rifah with my grandchildren to the police station and would parade them before the two. The officers would beat them badly in front of our eyes, foul-mouthing us,’’ said Sheikh. The womenfolk too were detained at the police station throughout the day until Faisal and Muzammil signed on their confessions, he says.

Rifah (27) has been living with her in-laws since her marriage with Rahil Shaikh in 2000. According to the family, Rahil has been working in London as a software engineer for the past seven months. The ATS claims that Rahil was in touch with Rizwan Daware who allegedly organised the funds for the blasts.

According to the affidavit filed by Rifah, the police threatened her that unless she made a call to her husband, her husband’s sister and mother would be arrested.

“On August 11, I was taken before my sons who were made to stand handcuffed before me. One officer threatened me that the womenfolk were outside and they will be stripped naked if I do not remove my clothes before my sons and police officers. The officer brought some other arrested accused also and I was paraded naked before them,” Sheikh said in his affidavit.

On the same day, Rifah was brought in by the ATS. “I was asked to drop the burkha before Faisal and Muzammil. I could see Muzammil behind bars, banging his fists on the wall and saying, nahi nahi,’’ she said.

Another family who allegedly went through the trauma is the Qureshi family. The eldest son Abdus Subhan Qureshi (34) was a member of the banned organisation SIMI before 2000 and the police had been looking for him in the wake of 7/11 blasts.

The seven affidavits filed by each family member, including the patriarch of the family Usman Qureshi (65) his wife Zubeida (57), their sons, Salman, Imran, Nooman and two married daughters, talk about the story of their harassment.

The ordeal began on July 26, when two officers from Kurla police station,

Jitendra Agarkar and Praveen Tejale, “barged into” their house and “grabbed” Salman and his father Usman to Kurla police station. Salman was detained for three days, his father left on the next day. They were, they say, beaten up with belts on hands and feet and abused verbally.

The affidavit of one of the daughters who did not wish to disclose her identity describes how her husband, who suffered from chronic heart ailment and diabetes, was stripped before her and beaten up. “My husband was beaten up by one police constable Khatal at the instance of Agarkar. He was slapped, punched and kicked on the face and stomach and on his back. Khatal forcibly stripped him. He was paraded naked paraded before me. I cried and pleaded with them not to do.’’ This incident allegedly took place on August 17.

When contacted, assistant police inspector Jitender Agarkar denied the allegations. He said: “Investigation for 7/11 blasts were not carried out at the Kurla police station. There is no question of calling in relatives of the suspects.”

The ATS had arrested Ziauddin Ansari on August 5, and had detained him for 20 days before he was released. His brother’s family in Mumbai had to suffer on account of the ATS’s suspicion. The affidavit filed by his brother Faroguddin Ansari’s wife, Naushada, states that Faroguddin was forcibly taken to Bihar on August 2 by the ATS and was brought back and released only after Ziauddin was found. When she met Ziauddin in prison, she states, “he seemed worn out, tortured, tired and in disheveled condition. I suspect he was administered third-degree torture.”

All the affidavits say that they were threatened not to contact any lawyers.

Meanwhile, the seven accused retracted their so-called confession statements in the specially designated MCOCA court on Monday.