In a boost to the National Investigation Agency’s (NIA) probe against Areeb Majeed — a civil engineering student from Thane district who joined the Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq and returned to India in November 2014 — Australia on Tuesday indicated that it is now “favourably” considering India’s request for sharing technical evidence of his email account.
Australia’s Attorney General George Brandis met Home Minister Rajnath Singh Tuesday. “Australia has conveyed its willingness to cooperate and favoura-bly consider the request for sharing evidence in the Areeb Majeed case,” said a government source.
Earlier this month, The Indian Express had reported that the NIA was facing an unexpected hurdle in its probe from Australia, which had raised concerns about the death sentence in India.
Investigations revealed that Majeed communicated with his recruiters and IS associates through various electronic and social media platforms. He is reported to have used the email id email@example.com for a substantial part of his communication in Syria, Iraq and India.
Since the Yahoo server is located in Australia, Australian authorities were approached for assistance regarding subscriber information, login history, IP details, search history and contents of messages and attachments, sources said. These details would assist in unearthing the entire conspiracy and details of terrorist acts committed in Iraq and Syria, besides pinpointing the identities of IS recruiters and facilitators.
For securing this information, the NIA took up the matter through the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA). The Australian Attorney General’s office sought certain clarifications related to the issue of the death penalty.
An existing Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty between the two countries contains a provision that allows Australia’s Attorney General to take a decision even if the offence attracts the death penalty in the foreign country. According to sources, in August-end, the Attorney General’s office sought further clarifications and the NIA gave its response to the MHA in mid-September.
Sources revealed that Australia raised Section 34-C of the Extradition Act, which states that in case “the laws of a foreign state do not provide for death penalty for an offence, a fugitive criminal shall be liable only for life imprisonment for that offence”.
The NIA has been arguing that this is not a case of extradition, but merely a request for evidence from a foreign country in an ongoing investigation. It has also conveyed to representatives of the Australian prosecution service that it is in no position to extend such guarantees.
While the NIA filed a chargesheet against Majeed in May, it plans to file a supplementary chargesheet with technical evidence of his online activities to prove his links with the IS and his activities in Iraq and Syria. For this, it had sent Letters Rogatory and requests under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty to 12 countries, including Australia, where the relevant servers of social networking sites or messaging services were located. The US, Canada, Luxembourg, Afghanistan and Turkey are some of the other countries to which such requests have been sent.
According to a government release, during his meeting with Singh on Tuesday, the Australian Attorney General mentioned that the MoUs between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Indian National Security Guard (NSG), and the AFP and NIA need to be finalised expeditiously.
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