On his return to his family in Jogeshwari last week after six years in Spanish prisons, Roshan Jamal Khan, 56, remains optimistic as he tries to pick up the pieces of his life in Mumbai. He continues to harbour ambitions of running a flourishing olive oil business —an endeavour that took him to Spain in the first place, he says.
In December 2009, Khan was convicted along with 10 Pakistani men by an anti-terrorism court in Spain for “belonging to a terrorist group” that planned to bomb the Barcelona Metro. Khan was sentenced to jail for eight-and-a-half years. However, in December 2010, the Spain Supreme Court dropped the terror charges and reduced his sentence to six years, which ended January 16. However, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorism Squad and the Central Bureau of Investigation, which probed his credentials from his college days till his travel to Spain, had not found anything incriminatory against him.
Switching between English and Spanish phrases picked up from fellow inmates, Khan, a St.Xavier’s College Mumbai graduate, blamed the Indian government for deliberately neglecting his case. “My own government treated me like I was an ISI agent when I was jailed in Spain. Instead of helping me fight my case, they told prison officials to keep a close eye on me. Indian embassy officials who visited me in jail were only interested in whether I had traveled to Pakistan. At one point I was terrified that they would link me to the Mumbai terror attack in 2008,” told The Indian Express Friday.
“In late March 2008, an embassy official named Mr Manot, accompanied by a woman whose name I can’t recall, met me in the Mansilla De Las Mulas prison near Leon. This was well over a month since my arrest had made headlines across the world. The first thing Manot asked me was ‘Why didn’t you tell us about your arrest? We only got to know about it when we received a letter from your wife.’ This is absolutely unbelievable. Not a single Indian official ever showed up for my trial or even monitored my case. I was not even provided an interpreter by them. I was left like an orphan,” he said. Khan claimed even on his return to India, he was interrogated at the international airport in Delhi by plain-clothes CBI officers, who were reluctant to help him reach his family in Mumbai.
Vividly recounting his days in incarceration, Khan said, “My prison cell was nine steps in length, and four-and-a-half steps in width. There were 36 cells in the barrack, with a prisoner each in every cell. Since I did not know any Spanish for the first three years, it was almost like I was a mute prisoner. While there was no physical torture, the mental torture was devastating and would break down any man’s spirit. The prison guards were always intimidating and menacing. They made me sign blank papers in jail, but I was in no position to resist them. Even before the trial, they told me I would stay in the prison forever.”
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Khan is one of 14 Muslim men picked up by Spanish authorities from a mosque in Barcelona January 19, 2008 in connection with an alleged plot to carry out attacks. Four of them were released later.
“I have been associated with the Tabligi Jamaat movement for the past 30 years, which involves reformation work for the benefit of society in general. It was through this association that I became acquainted with the Pakistanis who were arrested and convicted with me. We used to pray at the same mosque in Barcelona,” said Khan.
He alleged that a protected witness who deposed during the trial in his case had actually been planted by the police to implicated the others in the case. “The protected witness — ‘F1’, who was Asim Iqbal, met Qadeer Malik and Shahid Iqbal, both Pakistanis, at the mosque we all used to pray in. He claimed he had come from France and needed a place to stay for two or three weeks. They told him that he could stay with them. It was Asim Iqbal who carried a bag with him to the mosque from which seizure of cables, pencil cells, a detonator and 18 grams of explosive were made…He was planted by the police to implicate us in a bogus terror plot.” During the trial, experts had opined that the explosives were potent enough only to blast open a door, he claimed.
Khan is now hoping that a favourable verdict on an appeal filed with the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France will exonerate him. Khan said, “I am researching for opportunities to enter the olive oil trade, as I had received responses from several suppliers.”