A key prosecution witness of the NIA against Kalyan resident Areeb Majeed, arrested in 2014 on terror charges, was declared hostile on Wednesday after he claimed that Majeed had never discussed joining the terrorist organisation ISIS with him.
The witness worked as an imam (a person who leads the prayers in a mosque) in a masjid in Kalyan in 2007. He told the court that he knew Areeb and Fahad Shaikh as they occasionally came to pray at the mosque. He said he knew Areeb’s father but denied that in March 2014, he had come to meet him and discussed that Areeb was talking about jihad. “It did not happen that thereafter accused (Areeb) met me and discussed about jihad and told me that, he is going to Syria for jihad,” the witness told the court. The prosecution declared him hostile and thereafter cross-examined him, confronting him with a statement he had allegedly given to the NIA in 2014. The witness denied that his statement was recorded by the NIA officer.
According to the NIA, Areeb’s father, Ejaz, had approached the imam and told him that Areeb was discussing about jihad and Iraq and Syria with family members. The witness denied that he had ever said it. He also denied that he had told the NIA that Areeb’s father had told him that Areeb was visiting Islamic Guidance Centre in Kalyan run by one man named Mohsin Khan, who is ‘highly influenced’ by Zakir Naik. He also denied that thereafter Areeb himself had come to meet him at the mosque.
“It is not true that I discussed with him about visit to IGC, his interest in jihad, ISIS and Hizrat. It is not true that, he further told me that, Muslim brothers from Iraq and Syria were in trouble and he wants to go to Syria and Iraq for joining ISIS for carrying out jihad,” the witness told the court, denying the prosecution’s case. He further said that it did not happen that subsequently Areeb came to him stating that he had stopped attending lectures at IGC. He also denied that Areeb’s father had come to meet him again on May 26, 2014 and told him that Areeb and his friends had left the house for some unknown destination. He said he came to know from the media that he had left to join ISIS.
The NIA claims that Areeb, an engineering student, along with Aman Tandel, Fahad Shaikh and Faheem Tanki had boarded an Etihad Airways flight in May 2014 for Abu Dhabi and travelled to Baghdad for a pilgrimage and thereafter separated from the travel group to join ISIS. In February last year, the trial court dropped the charge against Areeb of being a member of a terrorist organisation, while directing that he face trial under Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and Section 125 of the IPC for waging war against any Asiatic power in alliance with the government of India. Areeb denied the charge, claiming that there was no evidence to show that he had joined ISIS or participated in any terrorist activity.