NIA probe hints no role of accused arrested by Maha ATS

Sources privy to the investigations into the case said today the NIA may not oppose the bail pleas of the nine accused hinting they may not have played any role.

The bail petitions are expected to come up for hearing on September 17. All the nine are languishing in Arthur Road prison since their arrest in 2006.

The NIA probe so far gave indications that the Anti-Terrorism Squad(ATS) of Maharashtra police and the CBI allegedly acted in undue haste in filing chargesheet against the accused, the sources said.

While NIA is looking into a possible Hindu terror link following a confession by Swami Aseemanand before a magistrate during the CBI custody, it was not immediately clear whether the agency would investigate the role of police officers who are alleged to have framed the nine muslim youth arrested for allegedly orchestrating the blast.

Sources said even the CBI, which took over probe from the ATS, can also be questioned.

NIA was handed over the probe after the case took a twist following the confession of arrested Swami Aseemanand, a member of right wing group Abhinav Bharat, before a magistrate in which he claimed that the 2006 blast in the powerloom town of Malegaon was carried out by Hindu extremists.

ATS, which was initially investigating the blast that killed 36 persons, had arrested nine muslim youth for carrying out the blasts. According to the agency, the main accused Mohammed Zahid was allegedly present in Malegaon when the blast took place.

According to ATS, Zahid was involved in the activities of the banned SIMI group. However, several apparent loopholes in the investigation led to CBI taking over the case. Contrary to the claims of ATS, the central agency got eyewitnesses to testify that Zahid was leading the Friday prayers in a village, 700 kms from Malegaon, on the day of the explosions.

CBI during its probe had also hinted that ATS officers in its rush to solve the case named two of the accused without realizing that one of them was languishing in jail while another was 700 kms away from Malegaon.

CBI officials had claimed that the then ATS officials chose to ignore the eyewitness accounts and stuck to the theory which was apparently worked out by some senior officers who apparently wanted to close the case quickly.

The entire ATS investigation went into a tail-spin after the confession of Swami Aseemanand before a magistrate in which he claimed that the Malegaon 2006 attack was carried out by Hindu extremist groups.

Aseemanand, who was arrested by CBI, has stated in his confessional statement that the 2006 blast was masterminded by Hindu group Abhinav Bharat and that a Muslim youth arrested in the case had brought about a change in his heart which led him to spill the beans.

Following Aseemanand’s confession, a second probe by the CBI had also carried out preliminary questioning of the arrested accused in the Malegaon 2008 blast case. The accused, all members of Abhinav Bharat include Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, Lt Col Prasad Purohit, Dayanand Pandey and Rakesh Dhawde.

Three blasts ripped Malegaon in September 2006 on Shab-e-Baraat, considered auspicious by Muslims, when they assembled to pay respects to their dead kin.

There have been calls including from Union Minister Salman Khursheed that there should be a re-investigation into the Malegoan case and that people, if found innocent, should be released.

Minorities Commission chairman Wajahat Habibullah had also said he would be taking up the matter about Malegaon 2006 probe with the government as he had got several representations ont eh need for a relook.

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