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Goof-up II prolongs Aftab agony - After identity, cops get name wrong, forcing Calcuttan to spend extra day in jail

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By TAPAS CHAKRABORTY in Lucknow
  • Published 16.01.08
  •  

Lucknow, Jan. 15: One mistake by police put Aftab Alam Ansari in jail; another has put off his release by at least a day.

A court today rejected a petition by Uttar Pradesh police to free the Calcutta youth from Lucknow Central Jail because it was wrongly worded.

The police’s special task force (STF), which arrested Aftab on December 27 on terror charges, was eager to get him off its hands after admitting “mistaken identity” yesterday. But its petition referred to the 27-year-old as “Aftab Alam Ansari alias Mukhtar alias Raju”.

The STF had been set on Aftab’s trail by a claim by two arrested militants that the mastermind of the court blasts in the state called himself Aftab as well as Mukhtar, Raju and Bangladeshi. Mohamad Khalid and Tariq Quazmi, however, had mentioned no middle name or surname.

The power company employee was arrested from Baranagar with Bengal police’s help and charged with ferrying the entire cache of explosives for the November blasts.

In Lucknow, he was brought face to face with Quazmi, who said he was not the Aftab he had spoken of.

“We suspect the real Mukhtar is somewhere in Malda and are in touch with Bengal police,” additional director-general of police Brij Lal said.

STF investigating officer R.N. Shukla had placed the release petition before the additional chief judicial magistrate at 2.45pm. Aftab, however, wasn’t produced in court.

At 3.05pm, judge Rajendra Prasad Tripathi peered down at the petition.

Judge: The papers on my table show he is not Mukhtar. So what is his real name?

Officer: He is actually Aftab Alam Ansari.

Judge: That means you have arrested a wrong person. How can this horrible blunder take place?

The officer stayed silent.

Judge: If he is neither Mukhtar nor Raju, why did not you write that in the petition clearly? Have you written that? Please underline that and show it to me.

As the officer began scanning the petition, he looked puzzled.

Judge: I’m not going to accept this petition. Please go and make a fresh one.

At 3.15, the officer began writing a new petition after rereading the case diary as the court heard other cases. At 3.30, the judge said the petition would be heard tomorrow.

Aftab’s lawyers Mohammad Razi and Anu Gupta said the young man had been told about the decision to free him.

Razi said Aftab’s mother Ayesha Begum had arrived in Lucknow earlier this month and that on January 2, he had petitioned the court to allow her to meet him in jail. But the police objected and the petition was rejected. The mother returned to Calcutta on January 7.

“She had no relatives here and couldn’t afford to stay on. She returned heart-broken.”

A jail official said Aftab was being treated sympathetically. “We offered him sweets and made him feel better today.”

“We had emailed Aftab’s pictures from Calcutta to Lucknow and Quazmi identified him as Mukhtar. We took Aftab on remand only after that,” an officer said.

Quazmi had said Mukhtar was from Gorakhpur but often visited Bangladesh and Bengal. Aftab Alam Ansari, too, was from Gorakhpur and had shifted to Calcutta after his marriage to Safana Bagum on March 13 last year.

Ayesha already lived in Calcutta where her late husband, Abdul Aziz, worked.

Quazmi and Khalid, suspected Harkat-ul Jehadi Islami activists, were arrested in Barabanki on December 23.

Mom on way

Aftab Alam Ansari’s mother took the Jodhpur Express from Calcutta on Tuesday night and will reach Lucknow sometime after her son’s expected release on Wednesday.

“I had lunch with him on the day of his arrest. He then left for office and hours later I learnt about his arrest. Since then, I haven’t seen his face. I can’t wait to serve him food with my own hands,” she said.

The family suffered a pang when they learnt Aftab won’t be freed today. “But my brother’s lawyer has assured us that nothing can prevent his release,” said Wasir.

The Bengal CID, which helped Uttar Pradesh police arrest Aftab, denied any role in the goof-up.

“The CID worked on the basis of the information provided by the STF,” said Rajeev Kumar, special inspector-general of police (operations), CID.