After detaining him for two days, the NIA on Sunday released Fahath Ahmad Azmi, who, along with his father, Faizan Ahmad Azmi, was brought to Delhi from UAE on May 2 for allegedly providing logistics support to the Indian Mujahideen (IM).
Speaking to The Indian Express after his release, Fahath alleged that he was made to sign an undertaking saying that he had gone to the NIA on his own and had no complaints against the officials.
“If they (NIA) knew there is nothing against me, why did they ruin my life? Why did I spend three months in a jail cell in Abu Dhabi before these two days of questioning here? I have been freed but they (NIA) have already taken my life away from me. The future of my entire family is uncertain now. There is nothing to look forward to,’’ he said.
While Fahath and his father were sent to India, their family — Fahath’s wife, two minor children and mother — has been told that their visas have been cancelled and they have a month to return to India. His family lives in Namiya district of Ajman, where they have “two restaurants, four embroidery shops and two laundry places”.
Fahath said their ordeal began on February 5, with a phone call from the CID at Ajman in UAE. “I had left home for Sharjah when my father called me and asked me to rush back. He told me there was a call from the CID in Ajman. They (CID) told my father that they wanted to talk to me regarding some business related issue and asked him to bring me to their office. We went and they (CID) immediately separated us. They took my two phones, keys and wallet. I had no idea what was the matter. In the last 13 years, I had one small incident with the police. It was a tiff with a policeman who withdrew his charges against me after I apologised. I was trying to recall who could go to the police against me,” said Fahath.
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“They later blindfolded me and put me in a police car. I could hear my father coughing. We were taken to our home where they searched my car and our flat. They took the laptops, flash drives and scanned through our belongings. My mother, wife and children were there crying. The police didn’t tell them the reason for our arrest… But they let my father eat his dinner and take his medicines. He has serious diabetes, cardiac problems and high blood pressue. I thought we would be fine. I never imagined we would be in such a serious problem,’’ he said.
Fahath said they were then taken to their office and other businesses where the Ajman CID men searched through everything. “By 4 am, we were taken to Abu Dhabi where we were kept in separate cells. My blindfold was taken off and I had no idea where my father was. It was a small room without a window. There was a CCTV camera, an exhaust and an AC. When the AC went off, it was impossible to breathe,” he said.
He said the first question he was asked was whether he knew Osama bin Laden and whether he had any connections with the Lashkar-e-Toiba and Kashmir. “They didn’t press for answers initially and I thought they were convinced about my innocence. A few days later, another man came. He told me that he was Abu Noora. I don’t know whether it was his real name. He would keep me handcuffed and even put cuffs around my feet while he interrogated me. He took me to a room where he asked me to sit on a chair. He said it was a kursi kaharba — it was an electric chair. He said if he switched it on, it would be worse than hell for me. My heart sank. He told me that if I co-operated, I could sit on a normal chair,” said Fahath.
“After three days, the UAE police started to ask me about two men who we had employed for 15 days in 2007 — Salman and Shahnawaz. They had introduced themselves as Nepalese nationals. We had sponsored their visas… We had no idea that they were wanted in India. They didn’t like the job and left. We heard that the Indian police was looking for them only after they left. We withdrew their sponsorship and informed the officials in Ajman. We had no idea that this issue would return to haunt us,’’ he said.
“I told them (UAE police) the truth. There was nothing more that I knew. I had no idea what was going on with my father,” said Fahath, adding that he was kept in that cell for three months. “I was beaten so badly that for hours my feet and back would go numb. I have spent days crying in pain. It was hell,” he said.
“My father has been in UAE for decades and I went there in 2001. I have never visited India in these 13 years and in fact my wedding too happened in Ajman,” he said.
On May 2, he said, the guard took him out. “He told me that I was going to be freed. The officials made me sign a few documents, took my thumbprint and asked me to sit in a car. My father was already there but we were not allowed to talk. I was seeing him after three months. The officials told us that we were going to the airport,” he said.
“They gave me 50 dirhams and 70 dirhams to my father. They gave my phones back. They asked me to call home and tell my family members to pay the 3000 dirhams that was outstanding as traffic violation fine… I could speak to my mother. My wife couldn’t utter a word. She was crying. My two-year-old daughter came on the phone… in these three months, she had learned to call me Abu. It was heartbreaking. I have done nothing wrong and I had no idea why were we being treated this way,” said Fahath.
“I had a conversation with my father in the plane. We had no idea what was awaiting us in Delhi. I didn’t even know Delhi. I had never been to the city before. At the airport, we walked to the immigration counter. They were waiting for us. The immigration officer asked me to come with him to a room adjacent to his counter. I saw another official was accompanying my father as well,’’ he said.
Fahath said they were questioned inside the IGI airport for four hours. “Then we were taken to the BSF camp. My father was again separated from me and I was questioned for hours. They asked me whether I know Bhatkal. I had no idea. I told them the truth. Last night, they told me that I would be freed. Today, when my father-in-law and other relatives came, they told me that I could go only if I signed the undertaking… They also gave me two letters dated May 2 and May 3, stating that I was required to come for questioning. I wanted to be out. After three months of continuous ordeal, there was nothing more important than being free,” he said.
“My mother had sold all the jewellery and paid 1.5 lakh dirhams to a man who had promised to help get us released in UAE. That money too is gone now,’’ he said.