Torture alleged in 11/7 blasts probe
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Torture alleged in 11/7 blasts probe

Family members of the accused allege third-degree torture in police custody besides human rights abuses.

india Updated: Oct 12, 2006 13:51 IST

Legal complexities have cropped up in the investigation into the July 11 Mumbai train bombing with jurists locking horns with investigators after family members of a majority of the accused alleged third-degree torture in police custody besides human rights violations, forcing the police to initiate a probe.

The family members of the accused have filed a total of 11 sworn affidavits against investigators.

What is more appalling is that womenfolk of the accused families were asked to drop their veils in the presence of male police and other accused. Legal experts here feel that the matter being sensitive needs to be verified properly.

"It (the allegations) is a huge question mark. What really happened has to be probed thoroughly," said Teesta Setalvad, a leading rights activist.

"The police have to be very careful in the manner they collect evidence in any case," Setalvad, who has been fighting the Best Bakery case of the 2002 Gujarat riots, said.

"The issue calls for a probe. The allegations have to be investigated properly. One cannot completely discount the allegations, nor can we take it on face value," said prominent legal expert Mahesh Jethmalani.

"It is common practice in such high-profile cases where the accused family often makes such allegations of torture. Medical evidence of physical torture can only confirm the alleged torture," Jethmalani said.

"The allegations have to be corroborated with facts," Jethmanali added.

With the matter even reaching the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), Maharashtra Director General of Police (DGP) PS Pasricha has ordered a probe into the allegations.

Though Mumbai Police's elite investigation unit, the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) that is in the centre of the controversy, is tight-lipped on the issue, Maharashtra Deputy Chief Minister RR Patil, who also holds the home portfolio, has termed the allegations "baseless".

"The accused and their relatives are bound to make such allegations. The DGP is looking into the matter," Patil said late Wednesday evening at an iftar party hosted by Mumbai Police chief AN Roy here.

Patil, however, admitted that mistakes do happen and assured that the allegations would be looked into seriously.

Ata-Ur-Rehman, the father of prime accused Faisal Sheikh and Muzammil Sheikh, has filed an affidavit and also dashed off a letter to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"For seven days I was kept in illegal custody," said Rehman, recalling tales of horror in police lock-up.

He alleged that even the women were not spared humiliation. "They were asked to drop their burqas in the presence of police men and other accused."

"I was stripped and paraded before my children, police officers and other accused," he said, adding that he was asked by police not to engage lawyers.

"The same day my daughter-in-law was called and she was asked to drop her burqua before us at the same place. My children and I cried, so did my daughter-in-law, but to no avail. They persisted and forced us," he said in the sworn affidavit filed by criminal layer Shahid Azmi.

Rifah Sheikh, wife of London-based Rahil, the third of the Sheikh brothers, alleged that Faisal and Muzammil were beaten badly and slapped before her.

"They cried. They were told to call up Rahil and force him to return to Mumbai or else my father-in-law and all the womenfolk will be taken in custody too," she said, and added that she had to spend some time in custody without being arrested.

Shabana Qureshi, wife of Naeem Qureshi, who too was picked up by police, alleged in her affidavit that her husband was severely beaten up by police.

"He was stripped and paraded before me," she said in the affidavit, and added that they threatened that "this will be repeated with me".

The July 11 bombings on seven suburban trains killed around 200 people and injured over 700.

First Published: Oct 12, 2006 13:27 IST