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The SC release of Akshardham suspects raises questions about PM Modi

On 16 May as election results poured in and it was evident that BJP under its PM candidate Narendra Modi would form the next government, it was also the day when the Supreme Court acquitted all six convicts, including three condemned prisoners in 2002 Akshardham temple attack case.

India's top court also pulled up the Gujarat Police for shoddy investigation in the case in which all the accused faced prosecution under the stringent anti-terror law POTA. The court also came down sharply on the Home Minister of Gujarat -- Narendra Modi himself -- and blamed him for ""clear non-application of mind…in granting sanction,” since it was based neither on an informed decision nor on an independent analysis of facts…."

File photo of security personnel inspecting Akshardham temple premises after the attack in 2002. AFP

File photo of security personnel inspecting Akshardham temple premises after the attack in 2002. AFP

Now the men who were accused and picked up by the Gujarat police have come out to speak against their persecution.

According to Indian Express, Mohammed Saleem, who was sentenced to life under POTA, told a press conference, "I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years, when they picked me up alleging there was a problem with my passport. They beat me brutally — I still have scars on my back, and I suffered a fracture in my foot. They asked me which case I wanted to be charged under — Akshardham, Haren Pandya or Godhra. I did not know what to say."

Another accused Mufti Abdul Qaiyyum, who was given death sentence by the special court set up under POTA, says termed the acquittal, "mere release from prison; justice had been buried at every moment in these 11 years", notes the report in IE.

Qaiyyum was accused of writing two letters recovered from the two fidayeen killed in the terror attack According Qaiyyum he was forced to write the letter. He recounted, "For three days and nights, they made me copy a letter that they had given me. They (the police) would bring an expert each day to check whether I had copied it well. They would ask me to copy the turns and twists of the Urdu letters so that they looked exactly the same as in the letter. I was very afraid, and did what they told me to do."

The revelations by the accused have once again put the spotlight on the way "anti-terror" operations were run in Gujarat. While the Ishrat Jehan case has managed to grab media spotlight over botched handling and alleged fake encounters by the Gujarat police, the acquittal in the Akshardham case is another example of how anti-terrorist operations are targeting innocent Muslims.

As the Supreme Court noted in the dismissal of the case the prosecution story was invented from whole cloth after "good deliberation" and they were unable to prove their case beyond reasonable doubt.

That their release coincides with Modi's ascension to Prime Minister is somewhat embarrassing -- though it is likely to be lost in the media din around his new government. But it should be noted that unlike the Godhra riots, Modi cannot offer lack of knowledge or resources as a defense for his actions. And it does raise a question as to whether he will be as cavalier with the law when overseeing the nation's anti-terror operations.

Updated Date: May 21, 2014 12:16 PM

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