‘Al-Birr volunteer admitted he converted couple’

Couple was introduced to Rizwan Khan by IRF man Arshi Qureshi, say cops.

Written by Rashmi Rajput | Mumbai | Published:September 15, 2016 1:55 am

A VOLUNTEER with the Al-Birr Foundation arrested for allegedly radicalising 21 youths who fled their homes in Kerala to fight alongside the Islamic State has reportedly confessed to being involved in the conversion of a Kerala-based couple. Rizwan Khan, currently in the custody of the Mumbai Police after being arrested by the Kerala Police, has allegedly told interrogators that he helped Bestin Vincent and his wife Merin convert to Islam. Post the conversion, the couple took up their new identities as Yahya and Mariam.

According to police officials, Khan has told sleuths that the couple was introduced to him by another arrested accused, Arshi Qureshi, who worked as a guest manager with controversial televangelist Zakir Naik’s Islamic Research Foundation (IRF).

“During the interrogation, Khan has confessed about converting Bestin and also influencing his wife Mariam to adopt Islam. The couple used to stay in Navi Mumbai and came in contact with Qureshi who lived in their neighbourhood. Qureshi first influenced Bestin and when he agreed to convert, the two approached Mariam who was not very keen on converting. Qureshi then introduced the couple to Khan who influenced Mariam too to take up Islam… Khan also helped the couple with paperwork and even signed on their nikahnama (marriage certificate),” said a senior official.

“Khan helped them in preparing the affidavit at the Esplande court in South Mumbai that helped the couple take up Islam as their new religion,” the official added. The police have recovered the nikahnama from Khan’s Kalyan residence.

On August 6, based on a complaint filed by the father of Ashfaque Ahmed, one of the 21 Kerala youths, the Mumbai Police registered a case against Qureshi, Khan, local imam Abdullah Rashid and one Haneef under relevant sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) and the Indian Penal Code (IPC) for radicalising the former’s son to join the IS. The four face charges of forced conversion and radicalisation. The probe has revealed that Ashfaque was close to Bestin and Mariam and fled with them to Afghanistan in June this year.

Officials said Qureshi was still denying the allegations levelled upon him and claiming that he did not recall meeting either Ashfaqe or Bestina and Mariam. “Whenever we quiz him on the role, he plainly denies meeting any of them. Even when we confront him with pictures in which he is seen with Ashfaque, he claims that as the guest manager for IRF many seekers used to visit the outfit’s office and many a time also click pictures with him,” said an official.

Meanwhile, during the probe carried out by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), arrested accused Yasmin Mohd Zahid (29), who was arrested from the airport in Delhi trying to exit India for Afghanistan, has reportedly told the interrogators that her husband Abdul Rashid had transferred funds to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh for her travel purposes.

Yasmin has disclosed that Abdul Rashid and his first wife Ayisha were in touch with a UK couple who had converted to Islam and were spreading messages in support of IS and the Caliphate over Telegram channel to which she had also subscribed as advised by Abdul Rashid. “Rashid had told Yasmin in the first week of July that he and other missing persons from Kerala had reached the Caliphate in Afghanistan. Rashid had given the ATM card of his first wife Ayisha to Yasmin and transferred funds to the tune of Rs 1.5 lakh into the account in mid-July, which Yasmin used for her travel preparations to Afghanistan. She had purchased flight tickets, paid for the Afghanistan visa and also purchased USD 620 using the money,” said an NIA official.

“Abdul Rashid used to send videos and messages in support of the Caliphate and Abu Bakr-Al Baghdadi to her on Telegram,” the official added.

Sources also said Yasmin had got married to Rashid in May, 2016 in a nikah ceremony solemnised over phone in which co-accused Shihas acted as wali (guardian) of the bride while other co-accused Ashfaque and Bestin alias Yahya acted as witnesses.