Stigma ruined my life: Kerala man cleared of IS chargeshttps://indianexpress.com/article/india/stigma-ruined-my-life-kerala-man-cleared-of-is-charges-5572781/

Stigma ruined my life: Kerala man cleared of IS charges

Almost one year since the 27-year-old was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the NIA last week cleared him of terror charges and transferred his case to the North Paravur police.

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Riyaz said he lost his job after he was jailed for alleged IS links. “Everyone looks at me with suspicion. People were not willing to interact with me. I have become a stranger for even close family members.’’

In February last year, Riyaz’s life took a turn for the worse. He was sacked from his managerial job in Saudi Arabia, his family abandoned him and he was placed under arrest for 76 days by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) after his wife alleged she was forced to convert and he sold her to Islamic State (IS) as a “sex slave”.

Almost one year since the 27-year-old was arrested under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), the NIA last week cleared him of terror charges and transferred his case to the North Paravur police.

“He has been cleared of IS links and NIA has dropped charges against him under the UAPA. They found no evidence against him. Now, we will probe the alleged crime under Section 498 (A) of IPC, (husband subjecting a woman to cruelty),’’ said an officer of Ernakulam rural police.

The charges being dropped is light at the end of a long tunnel for Riyaz, but he says the IS stigma has ruined his life forever.

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“After I was arrested, I lost my job as a manager in Saudi Arabia. Close family members abandoned me after the ISIS links were foisted. I never thought a love marriage with a woman of a different religion would trigger such trouble. I had come from Saudi Arabia to convince people of my innocence, but the NIA arrested and put me in jail,’’ says Riyaz.

From New Mahe in Kannur, Riyaz was arrested on February 3 by NIA when he landed from Saudi Arabia. The NIA had taken over the case from the local police, where his wife, a Muslim convert, alleged that Riyaz had tried to sell her to IS in Syria.

Their love affair began in 2013 in Bengaluru where Riyaz and the Hindu woman, from Pathanamthitta, studied in the same institute. They married in May 2016 without support from either family after the woman converted to Islam.

Three months later, she got a call from her father that her mother fell in the bathroom and she was needed at home and flew to Gujarat.

“When she reached home, my wife realised that the family had trapped her. She contacted me with the help of a friend and asked to rescue her,” said Riyaz.

Subsequently, he moved a habeas corpus plea in the Kerala High Court alleging his wife was detained by her parents. She told the court she voluntarily married him and on October 15, 2016, the Court allowed her to stay with Riyaz.

The couple then moved to Jeddah and two months later, his wife got another call that her father was ill and she should return immediately. “It was true that her father was ill. I had objected to her return then as she was at the risk of losing her job. I let her go and even dropped her to the airport,’’ he said.

Things went awry in November 2017, when his wife in a Kerala HC plea said she was forcefully converted and Riyaz tried to sell her as a sex slave to IS in Syria.

“I gave her my ATM card and mobile phone. After she boarded the flight, I messaged the copy of her boarding pass to my cousin. How can her family claim she escaped from my custody and I tried to sell her as a sex slave? When she insisted on returning, I arranged everything,’’ he said.

When the NIA took over, Riyaz contacted officers in Kochi to appear before them, neglecting legal advice. “I was confident of convincing officers about my innocence. But I was jailed and got bail from the High Court after 76 days,’’ he said.

Riyaz said he lost his job after he was jailed for alleged IS links. “Everyone looks at me with suspicion. People were not willing to interact with me. I have become a stranger for even close family members.’’

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He said he could not contact his wife after she moved the complaint in court. “She could have sought a divorce. It was cruel to link me with ISIS.’’