Staff Reporter

`Witnesses identified suspects in prison and court'

MADURAI: Imam Ali ordered one of the gangsters, who rescued him from police custody, to open fire on escort personnel at Tirumangalam police station in Madurai district on March 7, 2002. The prosecution disclosed this when the Imam Ali escape case came up for arguments before the third fast track court judge, G. Savithri, here on Wednesday.

Explaining the rescue operation, the Assistant Public Prosecutor, K.S. Murali, said a gang of nine suspects came in a Tata Sumo vehicle with arms and explosives to the Tirumangalam police station to free Imam Ali and Hyder Ali from police custody. Soon after reaching the police station, Shahjahan alias Dhokka hurled explosives on police vehicles, while others fired indiscriminately at police personnel.

In the melee that followed, Imam Ali snatched a loaded AK-47 assault rifle from police constable Ganesan, and ran towards the Tata Sumo vehicle. When an escort policeman, Kesavan, tried to intercept, Imam Ali ordered Seniappa to open fire. The constable suffered grievous injuries and was rushed to the Government Rajaji Hospital.

As the escapees sped towards Vazhathoppu area, the then Silaiman Inspector, Nadankan, chased them in his jeep. There was an exchange of fire in which the jeep was damaged. A little later, they abandoned their vehicle and escaped in auto-rickshaws. Police seized arms and explosive substances from the vehicle.

Mr. Murali said prosecution witnesses identified the suspects both in the court and the Madurai central prison. All the 41 accused were present during the arguments that took place amidst tight police security.

Imam Ali and Seeniappa were among five persons gunned down by the police in an encounter at Bangalore on September 29, 2002.