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The additional district and session court in the coastal Karnataka district of Dakshina Kannada convicted three persons and acquitted four accused in a terror case. Those acquitted include religious scholar Maulana Shabbir Gangolli, alias Shabbir Bhatkal, alias Hussain Shabbir Meheruddin Gangolli (34), who was arrested by the Pune unit of Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) on December 30, 2008, with 250 counterfeit notes of Rs 100 denomination at a Janawadi mosque in Shivajinagar area. He was alleged to be a member of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen (IM). Resident of Bhatkar in Karanataka, Maulana Shabbir had received education at Nadwath ul Ulema in Lucknow. Along with him, Mangaluru residents Mohammed Ali (64), his son Javed (28), and Mohammed Rafiq (34), who were accused of doing odd jobs for the IM between 2007 and 2008, were also acquitted of terror charges by the court on Monday. Third additional district and sessions judge S H Pushpanjali Devi convicted Sayyed Mohammed Naushad (33), Ahmed Bava (41), and Fakeer Ahmad Bava (44) on charges of terrorism, preparation of bombs and criminal conspiracy in connection with bomb attacks between 2006 and 2008, which had claimed over 200 lives across the country.
The court is scheduled to pronounce the quantum of their sentence on April 12. Six of the seven persons had been arrested in October 2008 in Karnataka, during a crackdown on IM in the wake of bombings in Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad and Delhi between September 2007 and 2008. Key leaders of IM — Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal and Yasin Bhatkal — allegedly managed to escape from Chikamagalur in October 2008 after news of the raids had reached them. Maulana Shabbir too had allegedly fled, but was nabbed in Pune by the ATS. Meanwhile, an offence was registered against him and others at the Ullal police station in Mangaluru.
In its orders on Monday, the trial court stated that Maulana Shabbir can be released immediately, if no other case is pending against him. His lawyer Arshad Bhatkal said, “There is no case pending against Maulana Shabbir now, he will be freed soon”. In 2011, Maulana Shabbir was sentenced to five years of rigorous imprisonment by a Pune court in fake currency seizure case. Earlier, while the probe in fake currency case was on, the ATS booked him on June 14, 2010, under sections of the UAPA, for allegedly supplying jihadi literature to the members of banned SIMI outfit in Pune.
ATS had earlier arrested five alleged SIMI members Feroz Mehbbob Pathan of Ghorpadi Peth, Imtiyaz Babymiyan Shaikh (30), Ayaz Khan (25), both from Bhimpura Camp, Mohammed Bilal Kagzi (27) of Surat and Nadim Mohammed Salim Shaikh of Thane, in this case, in August 2008. About 40 books on “jihad” were seized from the suspects. Later, the ATS had arrested German Bakery blast accused Himayat Baig on January 27, 2011, in this case.
ATS had then informed the court that while studying in Pune, Baig and Maulana Shabbir, along with another maulana, conducted the religious ‘darj’ meetings of Muslim youths in Pune at a masjid on Solapur Road and some other places. ATS alleged that the duo circulated jihadi literature among the youths and had indoctrinated them into jihadi ideology.
However, on December 2, 2016, Inspector Vijay Patil of ATS filed an application seeking their discharge in this case, under section 169 of Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), as “no sufficient evidence or reasonable grounds of suspicions were found to justify forwarding of said accused persons to the court along with chargesheet”. On December 22, the court had ordered release of Baig and Gangawali. Anjum Inamdar, activist of Mulnivasi Muslim Manch in Pune, had started a campaign for release of Maulana Shabbir. “We had demanded release of innocent Muslims like Maulana Shabbir arrested in terror cases. He was falsely implicated in fake currency case by the ATS. He has moved high court against the conviction and hopes to get justice. Seven years of his life are wasted in jail,” said Inamdar.