‘Absolved of terror charges after 14 years in jail’

Haneef Pakatwala, an Ahmedabad businessman, was fast asleep when he heard a knock on his door at 2 a.m. on April 28, 2003. As his mother opened the door, a posse of policemen from the Ahmedabad Crime Branch barged into the house, asking for him.

When Mr. Pakatwala emerged from his room along with his brother, the policemen asked him to come with them. He says: “The policemen knocked my mother down when she asked them why they were taking me. I was forcibly taken to the police station. I never imagined that I would be behind bars for about 14 years.”

Mr. Pakatwala was among those who presented their case before a ‘People’s Tribunal’ organised by the Innocents Network India and the Solidarity Youth Movement here on Saturday. It was to showcase the plight of those who were absolved of charges after allegedly being trapped by the State in terror cases.

Asked what prompted the police to arrest him, Mr. Pakatwala said he had set up temporary relief camps for those affected by the Gujarat riots in 2002. Local policemen and politicians did not take it too lightly and he was reportedly trapped.

‘No idea’

“Initially, I had no idea why I was being arrested. Later, 17 of us were charged with planting bombs in tiffin boxes in government buses that went off in Ahmedabad in May 2002.” Mr. Pakatwala alleged that the police threatened to file cases against his family members and made him sign on a blank paper.

“The torture at Sabarmati jail went on for months. Witnesses were forced to depose against me. We were charged under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2002. The Ahmedabad Sessions Court sentenced us to 10 years of imprisonment in 2006, which was modified by the High Court to life imprisonment in 2012. I filed an appeal in the Supreme Court which absolved me of all charges and I was released in February this year. In the meantime, I lost my wife and my mother,” Mr. Pakatwala says.

Asked if he is planning on seeking compensation from the government, he said, “I don’t want to get into trouble again. Let me move on.”

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2021 7:06:54 AM |

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