‘Pak. man not involved in Samjhauta case’

A file photo of the burnt coaches of Samjhauta Express.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Days after a retired railway police inspector deposed before a Panchkula court that he was directed by his seniors to “discharge” Azmat Ali, a Pakistani citizen who could have been linked to the Samjhauta train blasts, one of the “senior” officers told The Hindu that Mr. Ali was not involved in the blasts.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) said it would not investigate the fresh claims as the trial was going on and would do so only on court directions.

Retired inspector Gurdeep Singh, who was part of a special investigation team probing the Samjhauta case and one of the first investigators of the case, told a special NIA court on June 9 that Mr. Ali “was discharged as per the directions of my higher authorities”.

Former RSS member Aseemanand is one of the prime accused in the 2007 case and is currently on bail.

Senior IPS officer Bharti Arora, who was one of the officers who headed the SIT then and was named by Mr. Singh in his statement, said that the retired officer’s deposition was being misread.

No evidence found

“He [Mr. Singh] has not accused anybody of leaving (discharging) the Pakistani elements. He [Ali] was properly interrogated, and after interrogation when nothing was found against him, he was discharged,” Ms. Arora said. Mr. Ali was arrested by the Punjab Police on March 1, days after the blasts occurred on February 19, 2007 for “illegally entering India on forged papers”.

A television news report said that a sting operation “showed how Pakistani citizens arrested by Indian authorities were discharged within 14 days, though they were suspects in one of the bloodiest terrorist attacks on Indian soil”.

Ms. Arora said she would take legal action against the channel for the false report.

For three years, the Haryana Police did not make any headway in the case. The only crucial evidence they had was the cover of a suitcase (carrying unexploded bomb) which linked it to a shop in Indore from where it was purchased.

The case was transferred to NIA in 2010 when the CBI arrested Aseemanand in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case of Hyderabad. While in custody, Assemanand also confessed his role in the Samjhauta blasts.

“The case is at a trial stage and the investigations are over. We can probe new claims only if the court asks us to do so. We will wait for directions, if any, from the court,” said a senior NIA official.

This is not the first time a possible Pakistani link has emerged, in the case but investigators have not found any corroborative proof. In 2016, the NIA requested U.S. authorities for information on Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) financier Arif Qasmani’s link to the train blasts but later said that it was no longer pursuing this aspect.

In 2009 a U.S. charge sheet and the U.N. citation in 2010 accused Qasmani of funding both the Samjhauta blasts as well as the Mumbai 2006 train bombings.

Though the U.S. named Qasmani, the NIA had filed a charge sheet in 2010 in the Samjhauta blasts case against eight accused including Aseemanand.

“There are 299 witnesses in the case and most of them have been examined, except a few government officials and 13 Pakistani witnesses. The trial of the case is at an advanced stage,” said the official.

A special NIA court in Panchkula had on March 17 issued summons to 13 Pakistani witnesses asking them to depose before July 4. Pakistan replied that it needed “four months” to execute the summons and take a decision on sending the witnesses to depose in India.

An NIA official said the 13 Pakistani witnesses are “not critical” to the case and the trial was at an advanced stage. The Pakistani witnesses include the ones injured in the blasts and relatives of those killed.

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Printable version | Apr 29, 2021 10:04:43 PM |

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