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7/11 accused retract statements
October 09, 2006 15:00 IST
Last Updated: October 09, 2006 18:45 IST
In a setback to the prosecution in the July 11 serial blasts case, seven accused retracted their confessions on Monday, before a special court saying they were taken under duress by police.
The accused are Faizal Shaikh, Muzammil Shaikh, Tanvir Ahmed Ansari, Mohammed Kamal Ansari, Ethesham Siddiqui, Sohail Shaikh and Zamir Ahmed Ansari.
The development comes 10 days after Mumbai police claimed that they had cracked the train blasts case.
Appearing before special judge M R Bhatkar, the accused said police had obtained their signatures on blank papers and that they were not produced before a magistrate or deputy commissioner of police for recording confessions.
Under the provisions of Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act, it is mandatory for police to produce accused before a competent authority if they wish to give their confession.
The retraction of confessions by the accused came as a surprise to the prosecution as they were still in police custody.
Normally, an accused retracts confession when he is placed in judicial custody, legal sources said.
However, after the accused went back on their confessions, the court remanded them to judicial custody for the first time on Monday. They shall be produced again on July 20.
Of the 16 accused, 12 have been arrested under MCOCA. Of these, seven retracted their statements on Monday, while five others would be produced on October 13 for extension of remand.
Defence lawyer Shaheed Azmi said the disclosure of the accused about their 'forced' confession is considered significant because they have told the court about police 'pressurising' them to sign blank papers at the first available opportunity given to them.
According to police, Faizal is the alleged mastermind of the blasts as he had participated in terror outfit Lashkar-e-Tayiba's training camps in Bahwalpur in Pakistan thrice during the last five years and also arranged finance for the participants in the conspiracy.
He had also sent many other accomplices to the training camps.
Sohail, Etheshaam, Tanvir and Zameer are reported to be recruits of Faizal for the conspiracy. Kamaal Ansari was an alleged key LeT operative arrested from Madhubani in Bihar and RDX was seized from his house.
Muzammil is Faisal's younger brother and a trained software professional who also attended the training camp, according to police.
Prosecution sources, however, said it was not a setback to the case as it is normal practice for any accused to retract his confession later in the court.
Bomb blasts on board seven suburban locals during the peak hours on July 11 this year killed nearly 200 commuters and injured over 500.