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11 Indian Muslims Charged With ‘Terror’, Acquitted After 598 Days Due to Lack of Evidence

11 Indian Muslims Charged With ‘Terror’ Acquitted After 598 Days Due to Lack of Evidences

The Lucknow Bench of the Allahabad High Court on Tuesday ordered the release of eleven Muslims detained by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) over serious charges of terrorism.

A two-bench judge consisting of Justice Attau Rahman Masoodi and Justice Manish Kumar Nigam delivered the verdict. The judges decided after going through the documents, the record of the case, and hearing the accused and the prosecution, which proved that the accused were arrested without sufficient grounds.

The decision of the court was made on Tuesday following the lapse under Section 43(D) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) wherein the investigative agency failed to submit a chargesheet within the allotted time frame.

Further, the accused objected to the request for further time for inquiry because it was contrary to law, but this was overlooked by the trial court. This lapse in the proper proceeding of the court was deemed as a violation of law, and the bail was granted on technical grounds.

On 26 September 2022, the Uttar Pradesh ATS detained eleven men—Aleem, Muddasir, Nadeem, Habibul Islam, Haris, Aasmohmmad, Kamil, Qari Shahjad, Maulana Luqman, Ali Noor, Nawaziah Ansari, and Mukhtar—over suspicion that they had ties with Al Qaeda and its Indian affiliates. The ATS confiscated reading materials, laptops, devices, and cell phones while they were being held.

However, the prosecution failed to support the charges even though it had 45 eyewitnesses present in court to support their claims. The bench stated that the prosecution could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at this stage. The prosecution, according to accused lawyer Furkan Pathan, was unable to substantiate its allegations, and the accused was not present in court when needed, which resulted in the default bail.

“This prosecution could not prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt at this stage,” stated the court

Another counsel, Advocate Saif Ali, stated that the prosecution was unable to offer evidence of these banned groups’ existence or operations in India. The court made it clear that there was insufficient justification to hold the accused person.

Maulana Arshad Madani, president of Jamiat Ulema Hind put up a post on X (formerly Twitter), commending the court’s ruling as historic, and pointed out that the bail was given because the chargesheet was not filed in the allotted time. He expressed the hope that subsequent instances involving Muslim youths held for extended periods without official charges will follow this verdict as a precedent.

This order is in line with the one given earlier this year by the Delhi High Court where it held that a person’s mere interest in a terrorist group that is outlawed does not amount to being part of it and granted bail to an accused supporter of ISIS under the UAPA. The court held that having evidence against someone or attending lectures by extreme preachers are not enough reasons to call somebody a terrorist or supporter of terrorism.

The release of the eleven men underlines the need for following legal procedures and not keeping someone under anti-terrorism laws without adequate, or at least circumstantial, evidence to back the charges.

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