A group of 13 Muslim youth who pleaded guilty to being part of an LeT conspiracy to recruit Indian youths for jihad were on Friday sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment by a special terrorism court in Bengaluru. The 13 youths who have pleaded guilty are Shoaib Ahmed Mirza, 27, a computer applications degree holder, Abdul Hakeem Jamadar, 30, Riyaz Ahmed Byahatti, 32, Mohammad Akram, 27, Ubedullah Bahadur, 28, Waheed Hussain, 31, an MBA degree holder, Dr Zafar Iqbal Sholapur, 31, Mohammad Sadiq Lashkar, 33, Mehboob Bagalkote, 32, Obaid-ur-Rehman, 26, an undergraduate student, Dr Nayeem Siddique, 32, Dr Imran Ahmed, 30 and Syed Tanzeem Ahmed, 27.
Nine of the youths hail from Hubli in Karnataka while Obaid ur Rehman is from Hyderabad, Akram from Aurangabad, Dr Nayeem Siddique from Davangere and Dr Imran Ahmed from Mysuru. The 13 youths – most of whom were arrested in August-September 2012 – pleaded guilty in the case on September 1 after as many as 14 of 240 witnesses were examined in their trial by the special court. The youths pleaded guilty from the apprehension that a protracted trial would take away many years from the prime of their life after spending their last four years in prison.
The special court judge Muralidhar Pai in his order sentencing the youths to five years in prison under various charges has said that the sentences will run concurrently. He has also stated that the youths “are entitled for set off under section 428 of the Code of Criminal Procedure against the term of imprisonment”. This would mean that the youths will be in prison for one more year since they have been under detention for four years already.
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The National Investigation Agency hds filed a chargesheet against the 13 men on November 25, 2012 under the Indian Penal Code sections 120B read with section 153 A and section 399. They were also charged under section 18 of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 read with sections 10, 13, 17, and 38, as well as under the Arms Act 1959 (section 3 read with section 25).
The highest punishment awarded by the court in the case is five years of rigourous imprisonment and a fine of Rs 3000 for conspiring to carry out terrorist activities under section 18 of the UAPA and five years simple imprisonment for funding terrorism under section 17 of the UAPA. One of the 13 youths Obedullah Bahadur, 28, a tool and dye technician, who had been accused under sections of the Official Secrets Act 1923, after “confidential information about deployment of Military and Armed Forces” and space, atomic energy, and defence agencies was found on his laptop, who pleaded guilty of spying, has been additionally sentenced to five years imprisonment.
As many as eight persons who remain accused in the case are absconding including the alleged main perpetrators of the terrorism recruitment plot. The majority of the missing men are suspected to be in Pakistan while one
Dr Sabeel Ahmed, 33, is awaiting deportation from Saudi Arabia. One of the 22 accused in the case Asadullah Khan, 52, was deported from Saudi Arabia in December 2015 and his trial is yet to commence.
According to the chargesheet filed by the NIA in the LeT recruitment conspiracy case, a number of Indian youths were enticed between 2010-11 into joining jihadist activities by a group of LeT linked operatives based in Saudi Arabia who are currently absconding. The arrested youths were in addition accused of plotting to kill right wing leaders including a journalist Pratap Simha (now a BJP MP from Mysuru). According to the NIA’s chargesheet in the case two of the arrested youths Abdul Hakeem Jamadar, 30, and Dr Zafar Iqbal Sholapur, 31, travelled to Pakistan via Iran between December and January 2011 with the intention “of going to Afghanistan to join the Taliban to fight against American and NATO Forces”. They were however convinced by Farhathullah Ghori, 52, an Indian origin LeT linked operative, based in Karachi, Pakistan, who is wanted in the Akshardham temple attack case, to focus on India.