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Why probe agencies often mess up terror cases

By Vicky Nanjappa
July 16, 2011 17:39 IST
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While probing cases of terrorism, investigators often get it wrong due to the immense pressure associated with these cases. The arrest of innocent youth after the Mecca Masjid blasts, of Abdul Sammad from Bhatkal and of Javed Ali from Ullal in Karnataka are some examples of investigative agencies arresting the wrong guys.

These arrests often end up creating communal tension while the real culprits get away scot-free.

Abdul Sammad, who was picked up at the Mangalore airport in connection with the German Bakery blast in Pune, was later released.

Home Minister P Chidambaram, who had initially congratulated Maharashtra's Anti-Terrorism Squad for this arrest, later changed his statement and said that investigators need to urge caution.

Investigating officials defend themselves by saying there is too much pressure on them to crack these terror cases and lack of sufficient time to pursue all clues lead to such mistakes.

Intelligence agencies point out that their job is to provide leads and the police need to work on those leads and build up a strong case. They speak about actionable intelligence, but the Intelligence Bureau or the Research and Analysis Wing can't spoon-feed the police with specific information all the time.

Prosecutors claim that it is very difficult to try such cases of terrorism since the charges against the accused are often not tangible.

"It is not enough if the police say that the youth were found with Jihadi material. There is a need to substantiate such claims.

The police also rely heavily on interrogation reports which can't be legally admitted in court as statements are often issued under duress. The police need to work on available leads and then submit sufficient proof before the court," said one of them.

Javed Ali was detained on the suspicion that he had sheltered Riyaz Bhatkal, the man considered to be the founder of terror outfit Indian Mujahideen. He languished in jail for two and half years before being released. His father Mohammad Ali continues to be behind bars on the same charge.

The duo had also faced charges of taking part in a programme organised by Bhatkal in 2006 and possessing banned literature. The court later ruled that the material found with them was neither banned nor published by any terrorist outfit.
Investigating agencies have also been accused of sitting on intelligence inputs and not passing them over to the police.

The arrests in the wake of terror strikes often resemble a witch hunt. In Hyderabad, scores of young men were arrested on terror charges and allegedly tortured before being released.

Riazuddin Nasir, who had protested the police firing at Mecca Masjid, was detained by the police and even his family was tortured. A vulnerable target, he soon joined the Lashkar-e-Tayiba, say sources.

Cases related to terrorism becomes a double edged sword for investigators, as the information available is often not sufficient and the pressure to crack the case is immense. Their hurried effort to close the case often results in innocent people getting persecuted.

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