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Illegally detained by ATS, pressured to name five RSS members: Witness in Malegaon blast case

The prosecution led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought for the witness to be declared hostile for not supporting the case. The witness was the 220th one to depose in the ongoing trial and the 15th so far to be declared hostile.

By: Express News Service | Mumbai |
Updated: December 29, 2021 2:25:37 pm
2008 malegaon blast, malegaon, RSS, ATS, Mumbai news, Indian express, Indian express news, Mumbai latest newsScene of malegaon blast in 2008. (File)

A WITNESS in the Malegaon 2008 blast case claimed that he was illegally detained for seven days by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2008 and pressured to name five RSS members including current Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

The prosecution led by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought for the witness to be declared hostile for not supporting the case. The witness was the 220th one to depose in the ongoing trial and the 15th so far to be declared hostile.

The ATS had included a five-page statement of the witness in its chargesheet filed in 2009.

The witness told the court on Tuesday that the ATS did not record his statement. He said he was only made aware about the ATS having included a statement under his name on Tuesday morning, when he reached the court and was told by an NIA officer to depose as per it. The statement does not mention any of the five names.

The witness told the court that he was one of the seven trustees of Abhinav Bharat, founded in 2006 along with Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit and Ajay Rahirkar, who are among the seven accused in the case. The ATS and the NIA claim that the trust was used in the conspiracy for the blast at Malegaon on September 29, 2008 which killed six and injured over 100. The witness told the court that the trust was involved in training youth for entry into the defence forces.

Further, he told the court that he was summoned by the ATS after the blast for the probe in 2008. He claimed that he was first illegally detained for seven days, made to sit on the floor and ‘treated like an accused’. He continued to face interrogation for 1.5 months and his family also faced harassment, he told the court.

He also said that ATS officials were asking him to name five RSS members in the case. During cross-examination by Purohit’s lawyer, when he was asked about this, the witness revealed the five names.

“I was told that you will be made an accused if you do not take the names. The names were that of Yogi Adityanath, Aseemanand, Indresh Kumar, one professor Deodhar and one Kakaji,” the witness said.

The witness named an API Chavan and when asked to name the ATS officials involved at that time, he took the names of DCP Shrirao and IPS officer Param Bir Singh. The witness also claimed that he was told by the DCP that they had already made the story and wanted the characters to be filled, while asking him to name the five.

During cross-examination by the defence lawyers, he also said he was asked to speak about Pragya Singh Thakur, an accused in the case, though he claimed to have not known her. He said he was interrogated even on November 26, 2008 from 10 pm to 1.30 pm the next day, when the city was under a terrorist attack by 10 Pakistani men.

 

The witness told the court that while at that time he did not know that the police are not allowed to keep any person in their custody for seven days without a court order, he later came to know that it was illegal custody. Special public prosecutor Avinash Rasal asked the witness if he had approached any authority with a complaint against the ATS officials. The witness said he had not.

During cross-examination by the lawyer for Thakur, the witness was asked if he had not approached the authorities due to fear of the ATS, to which the witness answered in the affirmative. He also agreed with the question that he did not file any complaint as he was not well-versed with law.

The ATS statement, part of the chargesheet, had said that the witness was a trustee and had attended two programmes organised by the Abhinav Bharat trust in Pune. The witness, however, told the court that no events were organised by the trust.

The statement claims that Purohit had told the audience in one of the programmes that he was Ranadive and when asked about it, he had then told the witness that since he is a serving police officer, he is not allowed to be involved in such activities. The witness denied this ever happened. He also said that he did not know anything about the funds received by the trust, contradictory to the ATS statement. He also told the court that as per his knowledge the Abhinav Bharat trust was not involved in any anti-social or anti-national activities, when asked about it by the defence lawyer.

Before leaving, the witness told the court that he was apprehensive about his safety. The court told him that he could approach it if he wanted police protection by any agency.

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