Surat blast accused escapes from court

Surat blast accused escapes from court

Surat blast accused escapes from court

Afzal Usmani, a suspect in the 2008 Ahmedabad and Surat blast cases, did the “vanishing act” on Friday afternoon from the premises of the sessions court in Mumbai, where he was scheduled to appear for a hearing, leaving police escorts red-face.

Thirty-seven-year-old Usmani, a car thief and suspected to be a small-time operative in the Indian Mujahideen (IM) apparently just went “missing” from a bench outside the MCOCA (Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act) court on the fifth floor of the sessions court building.

Police, in an official statement issued later in the day, said that an alert has been sounded across the country for him. Sheepish police officials said that the accused, along with another person who was facing several charges in different cases, had been brought from the Taloja Jail in Navi Mumbai to the sessions court, located opposite the idyllic Oval Maidan in south Mumbai, for the framing of charges in one of the cases registered against him in the city.
His four cronies, who are out on bail, also appeared before the court.

Following the escape, the framing of charges against Usmani was deferred till September 25, with Special Judge A L Pansare rebuking the police escort team: “This a serious offence and negligence on the part of the escort team. The escape will have an impact on other cases also.”

Usmani, according to police dossiers, belonged to the gang of one Fazlul Rahmani in the 1990s, which specialised in car-jacking, highway robberies and extortion from transport traders in Mumbai and Gujarat. The gang, though considered as “chirkoot” (small-time), came into the limelight after the media went overboard in a firing case that had taken place in front of the Sea Princess Hotel near Juhu Beach.

Usmani was also reported to be close to some members of the banned group SIMI, and was booked in 1996 for trying to bump off a man.

Thereafter, Usmani remained in the shadows till his arrest in 2008 by Thane crime branch officials, who tracked him down to Uttar Pradesh while investigating car thefts.

The Mumbai crime branch later took custody of him and in a press conference announced that the arrest of Usmani “was a major blow” to the Maharashtra module of IM.

However, ATS chief Rakesh Maria later went on record stating: “Usmani is just a foot-soldier, but the cars laden with explosives for carrying out the July 2008 Ahmedabad and Surat blasts were driven by him.”