Kerala court holds three guilty of recruiting for IS

Updated on Jul 13, 2022 06:02 AM IST

The quantum of sentence against the trio — U K Hamsa, K V Abdul Razaq and M Midilaj, all from Kannur district —will be announced on Friday.

A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Tuesday found three people guilty of recruiting youth into the Islamic State (IS) with the intention of widening the terror outfit’s activities and wage war against the country. (HT PHOTO)
A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Tuesday found three people guilty of recruiting youth into the Islamic State (IS) with the intention of widening the terror outfit’s activities and wage war against the country. (HT PHOTO)
By, Thiruvananthapuram

A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in Kochi on Tuesday found three people guilty of recruiting youth into the Islamic State (IS) with the intention of widening the terror outfit’s activities and wage war against the country.

The quantum of sentence against the trio — U K Hamsa, K V Abdul Razaq and M Midilaj, all from Kannur district —will be announced on Friday.

The three were arrested by police in Turkey while they were planning to cross over into Syria in 2016. They were extradited to India in November that year.

According to the prosecution, Hamsa (60), a native of Thalassery, acted as an ideologue and was involved in spreading IS ideology .

On Tuesday, NIA court judge Anil Bhaskar found the trio guilty under sections 38 and 39 of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) (waging war against the country and supporting a terror outfit to weaken the country) and section 120 B (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code.

According to senior officials familiar with the probe, agencies had found that Hamsa, a professional cook popularly known as Biryani Hamsa, propagated IS ideology in north Kerala and helped radicalise at least 20 youth, whereabouts of some of whom are still unknown.

Hamsa was arrested based on information by Kannur native K Shajehan who had also been extradited from Turkey.

Later, intelligence agencies found that during a stint in West Asia, Hamsa was closely associated with the Bahrain-based religious centre Al Ansar — suspected to be a school for radicalisation. He reportedly came to the country in 2004 and started work as a cook but was discreetly involved in spreading the ideals of the IS, said a senior official who initially investigated the case. “His arrest was a big catch. A well known person, nobody doubted his intentions,” said the official, refusing to be named.

After he was found guilty on Tuesday, Hamsa pleaded with the court that he already spent five years in the jail and his “religious aberrations” were corrected now. The prosecution, however, said he played a key role in radicalizing several youth and pushed for maximum punishment.

The IS link of north Kerala came to light in 2016 after 21 persons were reported missing and later some of them were traced to IS-held areas in Syria and Afghanistan.

Later, Kerala police arrested two people in Mumbai — Arshid Qureshi and Rizwan Khan — who allegedly played a key role in recruiting the 21 and sending them abroad via west Asian routes. Qureshi, an associate of controversial preacher Zakir Naik, was held in connection with the disappearance of Merin alias Mariyam, a resident of Kochi.

Merin’s brother had filed a police complaint later saying Qureshi had tried to convert him also during a meeting in Mumbai in 2015.

Most of the relatives had disowned the missing youth saying they brought enough disrepute and shame to the country and community.

In 2020, a video of two women, Nimisha and Merlin, surfaced on social media. Intelligence agencies confirmed that both were imprisoned in Afghanistan. In the video, both were seen saying they were disappointed with their life in Afghanistan and keen to come back and they are ready to face the law. Later, the external affairs ministry made it clear that the government had no plan to bring them back to the country.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Ramesh Babu is HT’s bureau chief in Kerala, with about three decades of experience in journalism.

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