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Terror toll: 16 framed

New Delhi, Sept. 17: Mohammed Amir Khan was branded a terrorist by Delhi police when he was 18.

The son of a Delhi toy shop owner was accused of masterminding 19 bombings in Delhi, Rohtak, Sonepat and Ghaziabad between December 1996 and October 1997.

But after he had spent 14 years of his prime in a solitary cell in Tihar and other state jails, a Delhi court acquitted him in January this year for lack of evidence.

Acquitting him in one case after another, the judge said: “Suspicion, however strong it may be, does not take the place of evidence.”

He is now free but the terrorist tag has left his life in a shambles. His ailing father died while arranging money to fight his case, and his mother suffered brain haemorrhage which left her paralysed and speech-impaired.

Amir is one of 16 Muslim youths acquitted by the courts for lack of evidence after the police had apparently picked them up at random and framed them in terrorism cases.

The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action, a civil rights group, has highlighted the injustice to these 16 in a dossier titled “Framed, Damned, Acquitted: Dossiers of a Very Special Cell”. It will be released tomorrow.

“The 200-page document relies solely on the court judgments to bring out the pattern in which the (Delhi police’s) special cell operates,” said Manisha Sethi, president of the group and a professor at Jamia Millia Islamia.

“In many cases, the courts have indicted the police for framing innocents and concocting evidence. We are hoping the dossier will help strengthen the demand for compensation for the victims and punishment for the guilty policemen.”

One of the 16 is Syed Maqbool Shah, a Kashmiri who spent 14 years in Tihar for alleged involvement in the Lajpat Nagar blast that left 13 persons dead in May 1996. Acquitting him in 2010, Delhi High Court said all the charges against him were based on speculation.

Shah, who has returned to Kashmir, was arrested when he was 17. He wrote a diary in jail titled Apni Aap Beeti (What I Went Through). The 500-page chronicle in Urdu details how he was tortured.

Sethi said the process of illegal detention, torture, imprisonment and trial had exacted a heavy toll on all the 16 victims. “There has been no rehabilitation, not even an apology.”

The Jamia Teachers Solidarity Action was formed after the Batla House encounter in Delhi in 2008, where the police shot dead two alleged terrorists whom many in the neighbourhood believe to have been innocent.