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Monday, Apr 19, 2004

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Ghatkopar blast accused released

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, APRIL 18. The Special POTA court here yesterday released Zahir Ahmed Bashir Ahmed Sheikh, an accused in the Ghatkopar bomb blasts case, as the Review Committee on POTA had found no prima facie case against him. Through a ruling, in March, the Review Committee had discharged nine persons arrested under POTA in the case. But they remained in custody as they are accused under POTA in the Mulund blast case as well.

About 27 persons were arrested under POTA in three cases related to the bomb blasts in Mumbai in 2002 and 2003. On December 2, 2002, a bomb exploded in a BEST bus in Ghatkopar west, killing two and injuring 49. This was followed by blasts on December 6, 2002 at the Bombay central station; on January 27, 2003 at Vile Parle; at the Mulund railway station on March 13, 2003.

On April 1, 2004, the three-member review committee, chaired by Justice Arun B. Saharya, heard Sheikh's case here and in its order on April 7, 2004, it said that merely because his name was mentioned in the alleged confessional statements of the other accused, there is no incriminating role attributed to him, and his involvement in the conspiracy or execution of the crime is not made out.

Thirty-five-year-old Sheikh was arrested in Aurangabad on suspicion that activities of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), were being carried out from the office of a firm called Pragma Soft Technologies, allegedly started by him and four others. The police raided the office on December 27, 2002 and "found CDs, floppies, hard disks showing atrocities against Muslims in Gujarat and other material indicative of a call by Jaish-e-Mohammed, a banned terrorist organisation, for Jehad against Hindus, besides a copy of the manual of Al-Qaeda."

The POTA Review Committee said Sheikh had given a computer to his friend Sheikh Muzammil. It noted that Sheikh was neither a partner of Pragma Soft nor involved in the business. His lawyer, Shahid Azmi, said that recovery of Sheikh's computer at the office does not connect him with the crime.

While Sheikh Zahir has been released, Arif Hussein, arrested under POTA 11 months ago, is still in jail. His brother, Nazir Hussein told The Hindu , "Arif was arrested for the Ghatkopar bomb blast. I still find it unbelievable. They have done this just to harass our family."

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