Akola Court acquits 3 of terror charges: Mere use of word jehad can’t be ground to brand a person terroristhttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/akola-court-acquits-three-of-terror-charges-use-of-word-jehad-terrorist-5787488/

Akola Court acquits 3 of terror charges: Mere use of word jehad can’t be ground to brand a person terrorist

The acquitted youths, Salim Malik (29), Shoeb Khan (29) and Abdul Malik (24), were slapped with terror charges following an attack on policemen outside a mosque in Pusad on September 25, 2015 on Bakr Eid over the beef ban in the state.

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The court held that merely because they are policemen, their testimonies cannot be discarded. (Representational)

Acquitting three men of terror charges, a special court in Akola has said that mere use of the word “jehad” by a person cannot be ground to brand him a terrorist.

The acquitted youths, Salim Malik (29), Shoeb Khan (29) and Abdul Malik (24), were slapped with terror charges following an attack on policemen outside a mosque in Pusad on September 25, 2015 on Bakr Eid over the beef ban in the state. The Anti Terrorism Squad (ATS) claimed that they were part of a conspiracy to influence Muslim youths to join terrorist organisations.

Acquitting all three of terror charges, Special Judge A S Jadhav, in his May 21 order, said, “As per the dictionary, the word ‘jehad’ literally means ‘struggle’. Jehad is an Arabic word, which literally means striving or struggling. According to the BBC, the third meaning of jehad is struggling to build a good society. Related word of jehad is expedition, administration, movement, strive, crusade. Therefore, merely accused used word ‘jehad’, it would not be proper to brand him a terrorist.”

Read | Acquitted, youths say their lives shattered

Abdul was sentenced to three years in jail for “voluntarily causing hurt to policemen”. As he was in jail since September 25, 2015, having spent more than the three-year term, he too was released. “It appears that accused No. 1 (Abdul) exhibited his anger by violence against the government and some Hindu organisations for ban on cow-slaughtering. No doubt he used the word ‘jehad’. But, it was adventurous to jump to the conclusion that only for using the word ‘jehad’, he should be branded a terrorist,” the court said.

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According to the prosecution, Abdul arrived at the mosque, took out a knife and stabbed two policemen on duty and said before the attack that because of the beef ban, he would kill the policemen. Abdul denied the claim.

The court relied on the testimonies of the injured policemen and other policemen on duty. The court held that merely because they are policemen, their testimonies cannot be discarded. Abdul’s lawyers claimed that there were discrepancies in the deposition of the policemen. The court, however, held that the presence of the accused at the spot was proven. It, however, ruled that Abdul cannot be held guilty of attempt to murder, as invoked by police, as the injuries caused to policemen were not on “vital” parts of their bodies.

The ATS claimed that Abdul had given a confessional statement naming Shoeb and Salim. The ATS claimed that the two influenced Abdul and other youths for “jehad”, held secret meetings and delivered hate speeches. The court held that the confessional statement was “not voluntary”. It held that it was claimed that Abdul wanted to give a confessional statement after he spent 25 days in police custody and was not provided any legal aid. The court said that there was “no doubt” that the accused was “under the nose of police personnel” and, therefore, his statement was recorded.

The ATS also claimed that Abdul was part of a WhatsApp group called “Friends Forever”, where audio clips on “jehad” were shared. Five other group members, whose statements were recorded, did not support the prosecution’s case.