PFI Raids: ATS Custody of 5 Accused Extended Till Oct 3; Agency Says Links to Al Qaeda, Other Outfits Need Probe

The Maharashtra ATS on Monday told a court here that it wanted to probe the links of the five of the accused arrested during raids on the Popular Front of India (PFI) with organisations including Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State and also investigate the electronic evidence. The ATS said it has recovered some literature and a book titled ‘Who Killed Karkare’ from one of the accused and seized his laptop and phone.

The court extended till October 3 the ATS custody of the five accused while stating that the investigators’ demand for 14-day custody was not proper. The five accused were among the 20 people nabbed from the state by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in multi-agency raids across the country spearheaded by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) last Thursday.

They have been charged with engaging in unlawful activities, promoting enmity among communities, and waging war against the country. The ATS produced the five before the court of additional sessions judge A M Patil on Monday on the expiry of their previous remand.

The ATS had sought custody for 14 days citing provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and to find the connection of the accused with organisations like Al Qaeda, and the Islamic State (IS). The court, after perusal of the case diary, held that the investigating officer could have probed more on the aspects of seized records. Asking for 14-day custody was not proper and eight days would suffice, the judge said while extending their ATS custody till October 3.

While seeking further custody, the ATS told the court it needed to analyse electronic evidence seized from the accused. However, the defence opposed the remand, saying nothing needed to be recovered from the accused, adding that the arrests breached conditions as per procedure in law.

Lawyer Mohammad Ibrahim told the court the ATS had sought remand of his client Qureshi Shaikh, who is also an advocate, as it had recovered a UAPA textbook and for allegedly providing legal aid to PFI members. The ATS said it recovered some literature and a book titled ‘Who Killed Karkare’ from Shaikh and has seized his laptop and phone.

Ibrahim told the court this cannot be a ground at all to seek remand or even book Shaikh. He also sought the submission of the CDs and literature recovered by the probe agency from Shaikh. However, the court said seized CDs and literature cannot be produced at this stage.

On an application of another accused, the judge said the investigating officer cannot be restrained from taking confessions and statements of an accused at this stage. In a massive crackdown on PFI, multi-agency teams had arrested 106 leaders and activists of the radical Islamic outfit in near-simultaneous raids in 15 states for allegedly supporting terror activities in the country.

Maharashtra and Karnataka accounted for 20 arrests each, Tamil Nadu (10), Assam (9), Uttar Pradesh (8), Andhra Pradesh (5), Madhya Pradesh (4), Puducherry and Delhi (3 each) and Rajasthan (2).

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