Mumbai-based Jamiat-Ulama-E-Maharashtra that offers legal aid to Muslims accused in terror cases across the country have decided to drop Delhi-based lawyer Mehmood Pracha after some accused wrote letters to it, saying they “did not want” Pracha to defend them.
Among others, 26/11 Mumbai blast accused Zabiuddin Ansari has also written such a letter to the organisation.
Pracha, who reportedly became the face of the organisation during the period of his association with them, handled several high-profile cases, including the Jama Masjid and German Bakery blast cases. In December, 2015, he had sought acquittal for the lone convict in the German Bakery blast case — Mirza Himayat Baig — who is facing the death penalty.
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Jamiat-Ulama-E-Maharashtra president Hafiz Mohammed Nadim Siddiqui said an atmosphere of dissent had been brewing in the past several months. “Several people, including Zabiuddin Ansari, wrote to us from jail, saying they did not want him (Pracha) to defend them. They were unhappy with the way their cases had been handled,” he said.
Siddiqui pointed to a stack of letters enclosed in a file. These, he said, were either sent by the accused from jail or their close relatives.
Referring to one such letter, he informed, it had been sent the same morning. “He got all kinds of support, be it clerical or monetary, from the organisation, but sadly, all of it did not translate into the success we desired. There have been minimal successes in the past three years that he has been with us,” he said.
Of the 142 cases that the organisation is currently handling across the country, Pracha was the defense counsel in most of them. While he has appeared for Ansari in a Mumbai sessions court, he has argued for Ahmad Kazmi, accused of being a conspirator in the 2012 Israeli diplomat attack case, in the national capital. Kazmi’s case also happens to be the first terror case Pracha took up after he was approached by the accused’s family.
The organisation had been contemplating this decision for a long time. “Many cases got delayed as he did not get the charges framed on time,” informed a staffer at the organisation’s office. Pracha, who often appears in cases in the Bombay High Court, had last year appeared on behalf of the central government’s Food Safety and Standards Authority against Nestle India in the much-hyped tussle over the quality of Maggi.
“I do not want to say anything about Jamiat. It is their outlook. Who am I to say anything? I will go ahead and do what I have to do,” said Pracha in his response.