Amid high security, alleged Indian Mujahideen (IM) operatives Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah Akhtar were produced before a Special Maharashtra Control of Organised Crimes Act (MCOCA) court Thursday and remanded in Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad’s (ATS) custody till February 18.
The ATS said the duo were actively involved in assembling improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and had hatched a conspiracy to carrying out three blasts in the city — at a bus stop near Dadar Kabutarkhana, Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar — that claimed 27 lives and injured 127 on July 13, 2011.
Bhatkal and Akhtar were produced before special judge Yatin D Shinde.
The two, with their faces covered, were brought to the court at 11.30 am. The court has allowed police to hand-cuff them while they are being transported. The two were allowed to face the court only when the proceedings commenced. Bhatkal looked at the judge and grinned. He continued to smile through the proceedings, making eye-contact with lawyers and scribes in the courtroom.
Asked if he had engaged a lawyer, Bhatkal frowned and replied in the negative, saying “Nahi hai koi”. The court, at this point, initiated the process to arrange a lawyer for him from the state’s legal aid panel.
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Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said Bhatkal and Akhtar were the prime suspects in the blasts. “They are involved in other terror activities across the country,” Nikam said.
Akhtar’s lawyer Sharif Shaikh, appointed through the legal aid organisation Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind, argued that the duo had already been through sustained interrogation. The court rejected the argument.
Bhatkal’s lawyer V B More, appointed from the legal aid panel, said the accused had been exposed before the media. “Thus, their identification parade is pointless,” More said.
Defence lawyers argued that the duo should be sent to judicial custody and their identification parade conducted. If the need arose, they could then be taken into custody by the ATS, they said.
The defence alleged that the two accused were detained illegally for a day. The prosecution will submit a written reply on the allegation Friday.