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Salem song strikes different notes

Mumbai, Nov. 13: If CBI officials are to be believed, the man who evaded them for 12 years took less than 48 hours of questioning to crack and “confess” his role in the Bombay blasts.

If Abu Salem’s lawyer is right, not only has the don kept his mouth shut but CBI officials had better follow his example if they don’t want trouble with the courts.

A cacophony of claims and counterclaims today left none any the wiser about what the deported gangster might have said or not said in custody.

CBI officials said Salem has admitted the hand he played in the 1993 Bombay blasts as a supplier of arms, ammunition and explosives, though some seemed doubtful whether the “confession” would be admissible in a court of law.

“The interrogation has been continuing smoothly and he is co-operating with us. The questioning is focused on the blasts conspiracy and his role in it,” a senior CBI official told reporters.

He preferred to leave behind an air of mystery by refusing to confirm or deny reports that Salem had provided vital leads on the Dawood Ibrahim links of a prominent cricketer and an MP.

The gangster’s counsel .A. Siddiqui was categorical that “Salem has not made any confession. The CBI is patting itself on the back and it will only harm their case if they are saying so. We have already made an application before the Tada court that Salem does not wish to make any confession and that he is innocent.”

Siddiqui, who returned to Mumbai from Hyderabad after appearing for Salem’s partner Monica Bedi there, added that the anti-terror law Tada, under which Salem has been charged, lays down that an accused must serve a 48-hour notice saying he wishes to confess.

“No such notice has been given. But I want to know who is the CBI official who told reporters that Salem has given a confessional statement,” the lawyer thundered, adding that a court has said no interview should be given to the media on this subject.

Bombay blasts defence lawyer Majeed Memon, however, said: “A confession recorded before a police official above the rank of superintendent is legally admissible.”

The CBI also spoke of the possibility of subjecting Salem to lie-detector tests, such as polygraph, brain-mapping or narco-analysis tests.

“We do not rule out the possibility. But we already have enough evidence against him. That is what helped in getting this gangster extradited,” agency deputy inspector-general .P. Chhatwal said. “Don’t worry about evidence.”

A CBI official said Salem had not been asked where Dawood might be. “Everybody knows where Dawood is. Where is the need to ask Salem'”

The don is, however, believed to have told the CBI that Monica was not his first but second wife.

This was more or less the only nugget to emerge unscathed from the day’s war of words.

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