WHILE DEPOSING before a special NIA court earlier this week, a former trustee of the Islamic Research Foundation (IRF) identified accused Arshi Qureshi as the guest relations manager at the Dr Zakir Naik-led group.
In a statement in 2016, which is a part of the NIA chargesheet, the witness had claimed that Ashfaq — the youth Qureshi is alleged to have influenced to join Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — had told him that he often went to the IRF office and met Qureshi. However, the witness made no mention of this in his deposition on Monday.
Qureshi was arrested in 2016 on the complaint of Ashfaq’s father, Abdul Majid, who claimed that his son, along with his wife and one-year-old daughter, had left the country and joined ISIS. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) began probing the case and arrested Qureshi, Kerala-based preacher Maulana Mohammed Haneef and Rizwan Khan, a volunteer with a group called Al-Birr foundation.
Qureshi is undergoing trial under sections 13 (punishment for unlawful activities) and 39 (support to a terrorist organisation) of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
In February 2017, the NIA had said that it did not have enough evidence to file a chargesheet againt Haneef and Khan, while claiming that Qureshi had used his official position in the IRF to influence youngsters, including Ashfaq and others, who subsequently joined ISIS.
The witness told the court that his younger son studied at the Islamic International School run by the IRF Educational Trust. He added that he was also a temporary trustee of the trust, along with three permanent trustees, including Naik. He further told the court that Qureshi’s job was to clear misconceptions of those who visited the office about Islam.
Through one of his wife’s relatives, he had met Ashfaq, he claimed.
When asked what had happened in 2016, the witness said that International Dawa Training Programme was held at Mahalaxmi studio in Mumbai. “The programme was organised by IRF and attendees had come from Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and UAE. Dr Naik was there among the trustees… he was a trainer and had organised the programme,” the witness added.
While in his statement, the witness had claimed that he had seen Qureshi represent IRF in this training, during his deposition, he said that he does not remember the names of the trainers. During his cross-examination, the witness said that over thousands of people visited IRF office to clear their misconceptions about Islam. He added that the during his tenure as a trustee, no complaint was received about Qureshi.