One of the witnesses in this case is the controversial Gujarat police officer, Narendra Amin — the man accused in Hyderabad of shooting dead the brother of Moutasim Billah (profiled on page 28) in October 2004 and is now lodged in a Gujarat jail, accused of killing in cold blood Kausar Bi, the wife of businessman Sohrabuddin, who himself was killed in a fake encounter.
Despite the fact that Rajshri Hall is one of the best-known venues for public gatherings in Surat, the police could find no independent witnesses to attest to the arrest and seizures. The defence has claimed in the trial court that the witnesses who did join the investigation are themselves accused in other cases registered in the same police station. The Surat police also wrote to police in other states seeking more information on all the other accused in the case.
In the case of Ziauddin Siddiqui (profiled on page 38) the Aurangabad police promptly wrote back saying, yes, he was indeed an “active SIMI member”. The Surat police offered that letter from the Aurangabad police to the trial court as clinching evidence that since Siddiqui was a SIMI member, and since he was a participant there, it was obvious that the Surat meeting was called by SIMI.
One of the accused is 46-yearold Mohammad Muslim, a civil construction contractor from Ahmedabad. “The police had been swarming around us since morning,” he recalled in an interview with TEHELKA in Ahmedabad. Muslim was never a member of SIMI. He spent nine months in three jails across Gujarat before getting bail.
Four of the accused were denied bail even by the High Court. They had to go all the way to the Supreme Court and could get bail only in February 2003. These include Atta-ur-rehman Kureshi of Saharanpur, the gentle septuagenarian (profiled on page 36). As Chairman of the host organisation, Kureshi is accused number one. Another accused is a professor of economics at Jodhpur University.
In 2005, High Court judge RP Dholakia ordered that the matter be expedited and the trial end in six months. The trial is still going on. Five of the eight witnesses have turned hostile. The police said the host organisation’s Delhi office was untraceable. As proof, they filed a report from a police sub-inspector, who they claimed went to Delhi for a day, sat in a taxi, hunted for the office, couldn’t find it, and came back. The report, interestingly, was filed on December 29 — barely two days after the arrests.
When “live” bombs were being diffused in Surat last week, police and intelligence agencies announced they were “keeping a close watch” on the five “SIMI activists from Surat who were arrested in December 2001”.