Posted by: informer | November 25, 2008

ATS wants Sadhvi & Lt Col back, Court denies custody

Mumbai, November 24 :The MCOCA court today rejected a plea by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) for the custody of Sadhvi Pragyasingh Thakur, Abhinav Bharat treasurer Ajay Rahirkar and Lt. Col. Prasad Purohit after they accused the ATS of torturing them and their lawyers argued there were no new grounds to seek their custody.

Special MCOCA Judge Y D Shinde remanded the three as well as four others — accused in the September 29 Malegaon blast case — to judicial custody until December 3 and said the court would decide tomorrow if the torture allegations need to be investigated.

Of the 11 arrested so far, only Mahant Dayanand Pandey and Sudhakar Chaturvedi are in ATS custody, the rest in judicial custody.

Seven of them were produced in the court today. Seeking police custody of Purohit, Rahirkar and the sadhvi, Special Public Prosecutor Rohini Salian said that they were needed to be further questioned on the “sinister design of Abhinav Bharat, which appears to be instrumental in promoting, advocating and inciting unlawful and terrorist activities.”

The ATS also needed to know the source of the explosives used in the blast and if it was funded through hawala channels, she added.

Thakur’s lawyer Ganesh Sovani, however, rejected the allegations and said the sadhvi’s role was limited to the fact that a motorcycle she once owned had been used in the attack. She had no control over its use after it had been sold and the ATS had no other evidence to link her to the attack, he claimed. While Purohit’s lawyer, Shrikant Shivade, said that the ATS was seeking his custody only to torture him and extract a confession, Rahirkar’s lawyer, Nitin Apte, said all material the ATS needed from Rahirkar had already been seized.

Thakur and Purohit also urged the court that they be medically examined to prove that they had been tortured in ATS custody. The sadhvi alleged in court that ATS officials had physically and mentally tortured her and also forced her to listen to a vulgar CD. She had earlier submitted an affidavit in the Nashik court — before MCOCA was slapped and the case transferred to Mumbai — that she was illegally detained and tortured by the ATS, causing BJP leader L K Advani to demand a probe into the allegations and criticise the ATS.

Purohit told the court that third-degree methods were used on him during his alleged illegal detention before he was arrested. “My hands were tied to a rod and I was beaten up so badly that I lost all sensation in them. I was abused and told that RDX would be planted in my house. I was told that even my wife would not be spared,” he said.Purohit’s family had filed an application in the Nashik magistrate’s court earlier this month saying the serving army officer had been tortured by the ATS but the court dismissed the petition on November 15 after Purohit himself told the court that he had not been tortured. The judge had also said that there was no evidence in six medical reports presented to court that Purohit had been tortured.

Retired Major Ramesh Upadhyaya too made similar charges of torture. He said Maharashtra police chief A N Roy met him on October 26 and allegedly said that he didn’t doubt his patriotism but asked him to confess to the crime or his men would “pulverize” him. Upadhyaya also alleged that ATS Additional Commissioner Parambir Singh slapped him with shoes. He also alleged that he was threatened that narcotics would be planted on his son who would then be jailed for over 10 years while his daughter would be raped in front of him, Upadhyaya told the court.

Salian said the ATS denied all the allegations. “The allegations are an afterthought by the accused as nobody made these allegation before the Nashik court where they were produced for remand,” she said….

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