Ahmedabad, Jan. 24: American legal experts are in Gujarat to find fodder for their campaign against a draconian anti-terror law enacted in their country after 9/11.
A five-member team from the Bar Association of New York City that is spearheading a campaign against the USA Patriot Act arrived here on Saturday to study the 'misuse' of the now-repealed Prevention of Terrorism Act.
One of the people they met is 66-year-old Habib Karim. Picked up by the crime branch of Ahmedabad police in April 2003, he was 'held hostage' for seven days. He was given no reason for the detention and was allowed to go only after he signed on some blank papers.
Karim was not told either that his 28-year-old son, Kalim, had been picked up on the same day from his TV/radio repair shop in connection with the May 2002 tiffin bomb blast, which left 12 injured, and an ISI conspiracy case.
Although his son was taken into custody in Ahmedabad on April 3, 2003, the arrest was recorded on April 26 from Hyderabad, Karim told the team, which includes sitting federal district court judge Jed Rakoff and two non-resident Indians, Mamta Kaushal and Anil Kalhan.
Karim and Kalim were two of about 400 people rounded up in April-May 2003 and detained for periods ranging from three days to three weeks.
Gujarat police have booked 217 people under the anti-terror law ' 50 of them are from Hyderabad, arrested in connection with the tiffin bomb blast, Haren Pandya's murder and the Akshardham temple attack. All 94 Godhra train carnage accused have been booked under the anti-terror law.
The American team is touring the country to look at instances of human rights abuse under the anti-terror law that was repealed after the Manmohan Singh government came to power.
Yasmin Sheikh, 33, relived her trauma before the delegation. The resident of the city's Dariapur locality recalled that police picked up her brother-in-law Mohammed Yasin when her husband, Mohammed Hanif, a 34-year-old small-time businessman, was away at Himmatnagar in north Gujarat.
They were told that though Yasin was innocent, he would not be be released till Hanif, wanted in connection with the tiffin bomb blast case, was arrested.
After the arrest of her husband, who was the family's main earning member, Yasmin was shunned by relatives and did not have money to pay her children's school fees or even provide proper meals.
Jakia Johwer, a human rights activist, said the repeal of the terror law has not helped. She claimed that 34 families of those accused under the act have been completely ruined. 'We are where we were.'
Advocate Mukul Sinha, who has taken up the case of riot victims and has been campaigning against the terror act, said he is disappointed with the United Progressive Alliance government for its failure to repeal the act with retrospective effect.
Human rights activists want the Centre to drop Section 32 of the act under which confessions before police are treated as evidence. 'Neither the new Anti-Terrorist Act nor the country's Criminal Procedure Code treat the statements before the police as evidence,' Sinha pointed out.
The Nanavati Commission, probing the Godhra train carnage and subsequent communal riots in Gujarat, has said the U.C. Banerjee committee's interim report terming the Godhra train blaze an accident was 'not the final word' and it could have been an 'act of terror'.