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Rediff.com  » News » My son is innocent, says father of terror accused Aakash Dalal

My son is innocent, says father of terror accused Aakash Dalal

January 02, 2014 16:50 IST

The Dalals, whose son faces 30 years in prison if found guilty of masterminding domestic terror acts, have decided to take their case to the Indian-American community. Rediff.com's Arthur J Pais reports from New York.

"Four million dollars? Four million?" Adarsh Dalal mutters, choking and fighting tears. "I don't think even serial killers are held on such a bail."

He is sitting in the drawing room of his home in suburban New Jersey. "We have been paying so much money to the lawyers to get Aakash home, we are almost broke," he adds.

"We thought last year we won a sort of victory when the judge reduced the bail to $1 million, but suddenly a new charge was slapped, and the bail was increased to $4 million."

The bail shot up by an additional $3 million when the authorities said they had evidence that Aakash had spoken with an inmate about killing the public prosecutor in the case when he (Aakash) would be free.

In a few hours, Adarsh Dalal, who has a PhD in chemistry from an Indian university and works some two hours from his home, was to drive to see his only child who he says is in solitary confinement.

"I have to be brave when I see him and tell him we will bring him home soon. My wife breaks down every time when she hears his name," Dr Dalal says.

The Dalals, whose son faces 30 years in prison if found guilty of masterminding domestic terror acts, have decided to take their case to the Indian-American community.

Aakash, a Rutgers University student and a political activist who campaigned for anti-establishment Republican Presidential candidate Ron Paul, is described by some of his acquaintances as being 'weird' and 'anti-all religions.' They also said he hated the American government.

His father insists that his son is well read on many religions and is a great admirer of Pope Francis for the latter';s humanism.

Now 20, Aakash, was arrested last year as the mastermind of the January 2012 fire bombings of synagogues in Rutherford and Paramus, New Jersey.

His childhood friend Anthony Graziano was arrested before him and was charged with the attacks.

Prosecutors have said Aakash, who was in New Hampshire at the time of the attacks campaigning for Paul, taught Graziano how to make the Molotov cocktails that were used in the attacks. Both young men have denied the charges.

Of the two attacks, the second one could have turned lethal. Molotov cocktails were thrown at the second-floor bedroom of a rabbi's home in Rutherford where the rabbi, his wife, five children and his parents were sleeping at the time, but they escaped serious injury.

After Graziano's arrest, the authorities and the New Jersey Jewish Standard newspaper said an anonymous commenter accused Aakash, saying Graziano could not have planned the attacks himself.

Dr Dalal says he has no clue how his son would have known Graziano, and befriended him over the years.

They might have gone to the same school many years ago, the father said, but he had never heard his son mention Graziano in recent years.

"I cannot understand how anyone can accuse him of indulging in violence. You know he has many Jewish friends and even shared a room with a Jewish student at Rutgers for some time," Dr Dalal says.

Many family members had offered to help with the bail amount, he adds, but $4 million was difficult to raise.

The case has taken an emotional toll on the family.

Dr Dalal says he dare not ask his son how he spends his time in the prison cell or what he gets to eat.

"I don't have the courage to ask him," he adds. "I don't discuss the case with him. I offer him strength to stand by his declaration of innocence. Aakash is fond of gardening and at times we discuss his hobby. I tell him we would like to see him soon so that he can continue the gardening at home."

Dr Dalal's wife Harsha works part-time as a cashier in a department store. "It is important we keep her engaged," he says.

A few months ago, she had pneumonia and had to be hospitalised.

"She was not healing. The doctor asked if Harsha and I had a problem and that was causing the delay in healing. I had to tell him about Aakash. He told my wife that she should get better and stronger, so that Aakash does not lose his morale," Dr Dalal adds.

There are times he wonders if their decision to migrate to America was wrong.

"But I also remember the good things that have happened to us," he adds quickly.

"We feel desperate at times, yet we cannot abandon faith in God and the faith in our son's innocence."

Image: Top: Aakash Dalal. Bottom: Dr Adarsh Dalal. Photograph: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

Arthur J Pais In New Jersey