| An AFP file picture of Afroze with his mother
Mumbai, July 22: A day after the Prime Minister said no Indian had joined al Qaida, a Mumbai court convicted a man charged with links to the group.
Mohammed Afroze, 29, had confessed to having trained as a pilot for an al Qaida suicide attack on London. He was today sentenced to seven years’ rigorous imprisonment at a time when international terrorism has hit the British capital.
Afroze had told police he was part of a plan to hijack two Manchester-bound airliners from London’s Heathrow airport and fly them into the House of Commons and the Tower Bridge hours after the 9/11 attacks in the US. But tightened security at Heathrow after the US strikes forced the plan to be aborted.
In that confession four years ago, he had also spoken of terrorist plans to attack the Indian Parliament ' which happened within days ' and an Australian target. But Afroze later retracted his confession.
He has been convicted of conspiracy, depredation on friendly countries and forgery, but acquitted of the more serious charge of waging war against the nation owing to lack of evidence. The prosecution plans to appeal against the acquittal and the defence against the conviction.
The special court also acquitted Afroze’s brother Mohammed Farooq Abdul Razzaq of the charge of helping Afroze travel abroad for pilot training. Police investigation showed he had taken the training in the UK, Australia and the US, using forged certificates.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said the government will try to launch extradition proceedings against Afroze’s UK-based uncle, Mubarak Mussalman, who is believed to have funded his training at flying schools.
Police teams from Australia and Scotland Yard visited Mumbai to question Afroze but they never lodged criminal proceedings in their countries against him or made any attempt to get him extradited.
Afroze, who was out on bail, has been taken into custody and sent to Arthur Road jail. He had been arrested for robbery in October 2001.
He was the first person charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (now revoked). But the law had been applied retrospectively, and a court ruled that unconstitutional.