THE HYDERABAD Police has decided to file a closure report in a sedition case filed in May last year against three youths who, in a sting operation conducted by Republic TV, allegedly claimed their allegiance to Islamic State (IS). Police said they were closing the case since the news channel had failed to turn in the original tapes of the sting operation.
In May last year, Republic TV had aired clips of their sting operation, in which Abdullah Basith, Salman Mohiuddin and Abdul Hanan Qureshi, who had earlier been detained while on their way to join IS and subsequently let off, were openly shown pledging allegiance to the IS and saying they were ready to join the terrorist organisation.
Based on the footage shown on Republic TV, on May 17 last year, the SIT summoned the three youths and registered a case under IPC Sections 121(A) (waging war against the state), 124(A) (sedition) and Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.
In the tapes aired on Republic TV, Abdullah Basith, who had been detained twice, in 2014 from Malda in West Bengal and in 2016 from Nagpur airport, is seen saying that if he does not find a way to go to Syria, he “may do something here only”. When the reporter asks what he might do, he says, “Something like Dilsukhnagar’’. (On February 21, 2013, 18 people had been killed and over 250 injured in two blasts in the crowded Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad.)
Basith is heard bragging about implementing Shariat law in the country and saying that he was ready to “kill or get killed’’ in the process. “I reject democracy and Shariat law is best for India. You cannot allow people to make or decide laws,’’ he is heard saying.
Qureshi, who was part of the same group as Basith and was brought back from Malda in January 2015, is heard talking about his contacts in the IS. Salman too is heard talking about why he wants to join the IS.
“We summoned them for questioning because from the footage it appeared that they still had a highly radicalised mindset and were ready to go join the IS if they got the opportunity,’’ said a senior official in the Hyderabad Police. However, police said, they “did not find much evidence” based on that footage.
“While one youth was seen bragging about his continued allegiance to the IS, the other two appear to be talking about their previous experience of getting radicalised and regretting it. But we did not find much evidence that they had intention of committing a crime or instigating violence. It was not that the three men were in hiding and making plans. They had been appearing before the investigation officer every week in regard to their previous case,” said DCP (Detective Department, Central Crime Station) Avinash Mohanty.
When they were interrogated on the TV report, the three said their statements had been taken out of context and only portions of a long conversation, in which their leanings towards IS were discussed, were aired.
“So we sought the unedited tapes from Republic TV to understand the context, and gave them enough time but they did not respond so we referred the case to the court (to file a closure report),’’ said Mohanty.
The senior official said that “in spite of asking the TV channel several times to provide the unedited tapes”, they “only provided an edited version”. He said his team also visited the TV channel’s office to interview the reporters involved in the sting “but they were unavailable”.
In response to an email, Republic TV, however, said, “Republic TV categorically denies the allegation that it did not hand over the entire unedited footage to the Hyderabad Police in connection with the investigative story that it aired on the ISIS sympathisers and supporters from Hyderabad. Republic TV physically handed over the entire unedited footage of the sting operation to the Hyderabad Police and on multiple occasions offered to share all the information with the authorities in writing. Our reporter also offered, in writing, that her statement be recorded by the Hyderabad Police — an offer which is still to be taken up by the law and order authorities. If the Hyderabad Police does not want to act against radicalised elements, it is their concern and a matter of public concern as well.’’
DCP Mohanty, however, said the footage given to the investigation officer was an edited version. “We then asked for the original devices which were used to record the conversations, but they declined to provide that. With edited versions on CD, it is difficult to ascertain how the conversation started and the context in which a person is making some claim.”