For investigating agencies, no greater nightmare comes alive than one of their cases falling apart. And the loss of face is deemed even greater if the case is as high-profile as that of Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi. The senior Urdu journalist was arrested on March 6 this year by the Delhi Police Special Cell. Subsequently, the nation’s premier anti-terror agency has been pulled up for its questionable policing methods while human rights activists have highlighted how their cases most often do not hold up to judicial scrutiny.
Kazmi got bail—and relief from his protracted ordeal—on October 19 by the Supreme Court. In fact, according to the apex court’s order, Kazmi became entitled to a bail on July 17. He spent the extra months in jail because the hearing for his appeal was kept pending in Delhi’s lower courts, and refused even by the high court, a tactic the police employed, say his family. “A free and fair trial is a constitutional guarantee, and there are safeguards to ensure one,” says Mehmood Pracha, Kazmi’s lawyer. “Almost all of them were flouted.”
Kazmi is accused of being part of a conspiracy that culminated in the February 13 attack on an Israeli embassy vehicle carrying Tal Yehoshua Koren, the wife of an Israeli diplomat, at a traffic junction near the prime minister’s residence in New Delhi. The police chargesheet says that Kazmi was in contact with Iranian national Houshang Afshar Irani, the person who allegedly stuck a magnetic bomb on the vehicle while on a bike. (The bomb exploded, minutes later, injuring the diplomat’s wife, her driver and two others, but mercifully, no one was killed). It also says Kazmi had undertaken repeated reconnaissance trips of the Israeli embassy in his Alto car and kept track of the movement of diplomats’ vehicles. He has been charged with offences under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Explosive Substances Act and the Indian Penal Code.
The police, Kazmi’s lawyer says, don’t have evidence to prove the people he was ‘in contact with’ even existed.
Other than Irani, the chargesheet names three other Iranian nationals, along with their addresses and phone numbers in Tehran, accusing them of being involved in plotting the attack. Did Kazmi know any of these four or have any contacts with them? Pracha argues that the police have not been able to produce any “conclusive and substantial evidence” to convince anyone that these people exist. “The only thing they have produced are photocopies of their passport. How difficult is that? It can easily be forged. And it cannot also be accepted as evidence in a court of law. So how does the question of Kazmi knowing them arise?” he asks.
However, without going into details since the case is subjudice, ACP Ashok Chand, who is part of the investigating team, counters, “The chargesheet was filed after a thorough investigation and is based on facts, backed by documentary and oral evidence.”
Pracha adds that his client was also a victim of trial by media. A leading newspaper had frontpaged a report in July that, according to the chargesheet, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps had planned the attack and that Kazmi had been in contact with members of the group. The police countered it promptly, denying they had ever suggested the role of the IRGC in the attack. The only mention the chargesheet makes of the IRGC is in one of the appended confessions, which is not signed by Kazmi, where the accused reportedly met some members of the IRGC on one of his visits to Iran and agreed to work for them in return for money. There is no confession made before a magistrate, only the police claim of confessions that Kazmi’s lawyer says are “fabricated and not admissible as evidence”.
Meanwhile, as the case progresses, the lawyer has pointed out discrepancies in the chargesheet. For instance, the only witness to the incident claims that the attacker who planted the bomb was on a red bike, but Yehoshua Koren remembers it being black, which is also the colour of the bike the police recovered and claim was used in the attack. He also questions why a team from Delhi Police went to Iran after filing the chargesheet. “They should have gone before that. Anyway, what have they brought from there? Nothing.”
That could well have been because of the Iranians stonewalling queries from the visiting Indian officers, but either way, given the international ramifications of the entire issue, Syed Mohammed Ahmad Kazmi’s case, as one who was branded a “terrorist”, will definitely not be forgotten in a hurry.