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'He ruined his life for just 400 rupees'
Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | November 01, 2005 02:29 IST
Tempers soared outside the Additional Sessions Judge O P Saini's court.
It is where the sentence for those convicted in the December, 2000 attack on the Red Fort will be read out.
Back in 2000, six men stormed Delhi's Red Fort on December 22, killing two security personnel and a civilian.
The police had then alleged that they were all militants of Lashkar-e-Toiba who sneaked into the Red Fort and opened indiscriminate fire on the guards. All six were later killed in various police encounters.
Abu Shyamal was killed in Okhla in New Delhi. Abu Sufian got killed in an encounter in Srinagar.
So were the three others, Abu Shaad, Abu Bilal and Abu Haider.
Four days after the incident, the police arrested prime suspect and Pakistani 'LeT militant' Mohammad Ashfaq alias Arif along with his wife Rahmana Yousuf Farooqui in south Delhi's Jamia Nagar.
The police alleged that Ashfaq was part of a conspiracy to wage a war against India.
A piece of paper with a mobile number found near the Red Fort lead the police to Ashfaq.
Out of 11 people accused in the case, seven were found guilty.
It is their sentence that Judge Saini will read out.
A small crowd was protesting outside the court against the 'traitors of India'
Anil Agarwal, lawyer for three of the accused, told rediff.com: "By any stretch of imagination, my clients can't be connected to such a serious crime because they never knew Ashfaq at any point of time. They didn't conspire with him. The judgment has also said that out of 11 accused only 3 were involved in the conspiracy."
Agarwal's client Matloob Alam, a ration shop owner, was sentenced for helping Ashfaq in getting a ration card using forged documents.
His other clients Devinder Singh and Shehanshah Alam helped Ashfaq procure a driving license.
Agarwal said, "Matloob Khan did not know Asfaq is not an Indian. He was told that he is from Poonch, Jammu. There are so many people who indulge in forgery. But how can you connect a petty crime like forgery with sedition charges?"
Agarwal regrets that, 'a guy who took Rs 400 for getting the ration card is now finished'. "His social death is more punishing than the actual sentence. Of the 400 rupees he took, he gave 200 to the officer in the ration department Moolchand Sharma as per the prosecution case. Imagine, a man's life has been ruined just for Rs 200. He has already spent 22 months in jail."
The other accused Alam spent four years in jail for charges of sedition and forgery.
Alam was acquitted of all charges now only after a Road Transport Office inspector from Gaziabad came to court to testify that he signed Ashfaq's driving license.
Ashfaq's and his wife Rehamana's lawyer Raja Mohammad Tufail told rediff.com that the atmosphere in the trial was always tense. Rehamana had advertised in a paper soliciting marriage proposal. Ashfaq lied to her that he is from Poonch, Jammu. In less than a month both were arrested.
What's her exact fault? How can you charged her for harbouring a criminal? He was her husband till he was arrested. Section 216 can't be applied in her case. She didn't know that he is a Pakistani. Only when he was arrested, did she came to know about his real identity."
After spending five years in jail, Rehamana is a very sick woman. A police officer who is escorting her from jail to the court room said that she has lost her voice on hearing the judgment. She is shocked and has become immobile.
Agarwal said, "Indians and Pakistanis look alike. It's impossible to know who is Pakistani and who is Indian. At least eight people charged in this case have helped Ashfaq at some point but they didn't know him anything about his activities. It's so wrong on the media's part to brand all accused as traitors."
Agarwal said that Asfaq, who got the death penalty and Hawala operators Nazir Ahmed Qasid and his son Farooq Ahmed Qasid, who got life imprisonment for being the key conspirators can't be equated with the poor people who are part of this case because they gave driving licence and ration card without knowing anything about Ashfaq.