The Telangana Police is in two minds about challenging the acquittal of 10 persons, accused of carrying out a suicide bomb attack on the Task Force office on 12 October 2005, by a special communal terror court in Hyderabad on Thursday. This might further dent the image of the police, who are facing allegation of tardy investigation and failing to collect solid evidence against the now absolved men. 

The top brass of the police have decided to prepare a note after getting the copy of the judgment next week. A senior official told this newspaper that the next course of action would depend only after obtaining the legal opinion from the home department and the final view of the state government. “This will take at least a month,” the official said. The Central Crime Station (CCS) of Hyderabad, which investigated the case, was caught off  guard as Justice T. Srinivasa Rao acquitted the 10 arrested persons accused in the terror blast, which was triggered by a 33-year-old Bangladeshi terror mole, Daleen.

Daleen, a Chittagong resident who belonged to Harkat-Ul-Jihad (Huji), a Bangladesh based terror outfit, walked to the Task Force office of the police at Begumpet in Hyderabad on a Dussehra and blew himself up, killing a police constable, A. Satyanrayana, and injuring a policeman. 

Hyderabad cops filed a case stating that the suicide bombing was a part of a plot to avenge the arrest of a HuJi operative in connection with a terror attack in Gujarat in 2004. While Daleen was named as accused number 3, Hyderabad based terror suspect Shahid Bilal and his accomplice, Ghulam Yazdani (both were killed in encounters) were named as A 1 and 2, respectively.

All major Muslim groups, including key political parties such as All India Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) and Majlis Bachao Tehreek (MBT) demanded action against the police officials for “framing charges against innocent Muslim youths”. MIM president and Hyderabad MP Asaduddin Owaisi demanded that the officials who kept the 10 Muslim youths, all hailing from Hyderabad, in jail all these years should be tried and punished. MBT general secretary, Mujahid Hashmi, and Human Rights Watch, a local rights group, sought punishment for the officials and compensation for the absolved.

At the same time, Hyderabad police commissioner P. Mahender Reddy on Saturday received pleas from A. Lakshmi, wife of deceased constable Satyanarayana, demanding that the verdict should be challenged in the higher courts. CCS DCP Avinash Mohanty told The Sunday Guardian that the department would go through the verdict of the trial court to find the loopholes in prosecution and decide the next step. The cops, however, dismissed allegations that the trial court may have been soft on terror, citing Justice Srinivasa Rao’s sentencing of the death penalty to five accused in a terror attack case in another city in December 2016.

Three senior police officials and a former public prosecutor who were connected with the terror attack cases in Hyderabad since 1999 told this reporter that the police and the prosecution had handled the blast case very casually over the years. “The judge was right in saying that ‘delayed production of evidence’ in the case was ‘too little and too late’,” they maintained.

“You can imagine the fate of the case as there were six magistrates and six public prosecutors who looked into the case in the last 12 years and the incharge ACP of a special investigation team (SIT), Diwakar, who led the probe in the case, went on leave for two years,” said a retired senior IPS official of the Task Force.

He said that the fact that the then UPA government at the Centre and the previous Congress led government of united Andhra Pradesh had paid cash compensation to around two dozen Muslim youths, acquitted in terror cases in Hyderabad, may have discouraged the police to step up their probe.

The cops based their investigation entirely on circumstantial evidence, depending on whatever they stumbled on, instead of chasing the real culprits, said another former public prosecutor who preferred anonymity. For example, at least three youths were picked just because of the fact that one of them, Mohammad Abdul Zayed, was related to A 1, Shahid Bilal.

The cops couldn’t produce any evidence against the accused. They only said that they were associated with local madrasas and were following radical Islamic websites and preaching the same.

Now, seven more accused in the case are absconding. While six of them are based in Bangladesh, another accused, Farahtuttalah Ghouri, is from Hyderabad. 

The 10 acquitted are: Mohammad Abdul Kaleem, Mohammad Abdul Zayed, Mohammad Shakeel Ahmed, Syed Haji, Ajmal Ali Khan, Syed Azmath Ali, Mahmood Baroodwala, Shiek Khaja, Nafiqul Biswas and Mohammad Hilaluddin.

While the first four are from Hyderabad, the next three are from Karnataka and the last three from West Bengal.

The three Hyderabad youths were released on Friday (another got bail six months ago). The acquitted youths from Karnataka and West Bengal will be set free in the next few days.

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