Mumbai, Oct. 9: Seven persons arrested for alleged involvement in the July 11 train blasts in Mumbai retracted their confessions in court today, dealing a blow to Mumbai police and Delhi’s efforts to build a case against Pakistan.
The somersault came on a day Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for Europe, where his team is expected to share with European Union leaders purported evidence that links Pakistan to the serial blasts. India has already shown the dossier to the US.
Led by prime accused Faisal Shaikh, Muzammil Shaikh, Tanvir Ahmed Ansari, Mohammed Kamal Ansari, Ethesham Siddiqui, Sohail Shaikh and Zamir Ahmed Ansari told judge M.R. Bhatkar of a special court that the police had forced them to make the confessions.
The accused alleged that the police had obtained their signatures on blank papers and that no magistrate or deputy commissioner of police was present to record the confessions, as is mandatory under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act. All the seven have been booked under the MCOCA.
The turnaround comes 10 days after Mumbai police claimed to have cracked the case. “This is very normal for any accused to do in such a sensitive case,” K.P. Raghuvanshi, the chief of the anti-terrorism squad that probed the case, said today.
However, legal sources said, the retraction is surprising as it happened when the seven were technically in police custody. The court did send them to judicial custody — remand in a jail — but the order came after the confession was withdrawn.
Usually, an accused retracts a confession only after it is certain that he would be sent to judicial custody, where the possibility of torture is far less than in police lock-ups. Fearing accountability, prison officials usually do not allow the police to use third-degree methods when the undertrial is in jail.
The police had alleged that Faisal, a Lashkar-e-Toiba operative, had acquired arms training in Pakistan and was the chief organiser of the blasts that killed 200 people.
Kamaal Ansari, also an alleged Lashkar operative, was arrested from Madhubani in Bihar and RDX was seized from his house. Muzammil, Faisal’s younger brother, is a trained software professional who was accused of attending the training camp.
This apart, Faisal is also alleged to have said in his confessional statement that he masterminded an aborted attempt to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.
According to Raghuvanshi, Faisal planted the RDX-based “cocktail bomb” that exploded at Jogeshwari station.