IN AN unusual development in court, an accused in a bomb blast case deposed as a witness to vouch for the “good behaviour in jail” of one of the convicts in the 7/11 serial blasts case.
Nadeem Akhtar, an accused in the 13/7 Mumbai serial blasts case, described at length on Tuesday the conduct of fellow inmate Ehtesham Kutubuddin Siddiqui, one of the 12 convicts in the 2006 train bombing case. He also detailed the “worse than animal” treatment meted out to inmates in the “anda” cell of Arthur Road Jail where they are lodged.
Siddiqui, 32, is known to have links with SIMI and said to have been present in the house where the bombs used on the trains were assembled. Besides him, 11 others have been found guilty of crimes committed against the country. Each has pleaded for a minimum sentence.
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Akhtar testified in the special MCOCA court as Ehtesham’s friend. This was after the defence previously sought to show that reform was possible and wanted witnesses known to the convicts to support their argument.
Living inside the ‘anda’ cell since his arrest in 2012, Akhtar said there was no water or electricity and no ventilation or greenery either. “…only darkness, even animals would struggle to live in such inhuman conditions,” Akhtar said. “Anda cell mein magistrates ko nahi laaya jaata waha bahut pareshani rehti hai (Magistrates are not escorted till the ‘anda’ cell as there are a lot of problems),” he said.
Speaking of his fellow anda cell inmate, Akhtar said, “Bahut politely baat karta tha; padhayi karta tha; mujhe bhi bola tha padhayi karne (He always spoke politely and was studious. He also motivated me to study).”
When defence lawyer Sharif Shaikh asked how many others Ehtesham might have motivated, Akhtar’s reply was “25-30” — all inmates who took admission in different courses. Ehtesham also helped inmates in drafting RTI applications, he said.
Three other defence witnesses — Farzana (Majid Shaikh’s wife), Aziz Khan (Asif Khan’s brother) and Ishtiyaq Ahmed (Tanveer Ansari’s brother) — claimed that the convicts had shown “immense” improvement in their conduct during their years in jail.