Malegaon blast trial: 15th witness turns hostile, tells court was threatened by ATS officers to implicate RSS leaders

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A witness in the 2008 Malegaon blast case has told the court that he was threatened by senior officers of the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) to implicate Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) leaders: Yogi Adityanath, Swami Aseemanand, Indresh Kumar, leader Deodhar and Kakaji.

The witness, who is related to lt col Prasad Purohit, was declared hostile by the prosecution as he retracted his statement given to the agency and has become the 15th witness to become hostile in the case. Till now, the prosecution has examined around 220 witnesses in the blast case.

“I was threatened by ATS officers Param Bir Singh and DCP Shrirao who were then posted with Maharashtra ATS. They told me their story was ready and that I had to only take the names of certain people. They even threatened me that if I didn’t take the said names, I would have to face the consequences. They detained me for several days,” the witness told the special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court while he was cross-examined by Purohit’s counsel.

The witness told the court that five names were given to him and he was asked to mention them in his statements. Special NIA judge Prashant R Sitre told the witness, “You can lodge a complaint against the officers if you were tortured. Do you need police protection?”

Special NIA public prosecutor Avinash Rasal who examined the witness pointed out to the court that the witness never lodged a complaint, if at all he was tortured by the agency. The witness was associated with Abhinav Bharat, a right-wing group that is allegedly part of the blast conspiracy. The witness had earlier told the Maharashtra ATS that he was associated with Abhinav Bharat since its formation. He had arranged several programmes with Purohit to attract the youth towards the organisation. They had even taken an oath to form a Hindu nation and nobody could rest till such a nation was formed.

The trial in the 2008 blast is being conducted before special NIA judge, P R Sitre. Six people were killed and over 100 injured when an explosive device strapped to a motorcycle went off near a mosque at Malegaon, Nashik, on September 29, 2008. Sayyed Nisar Ahmed, who lost his son Sayyed Azhar Nisar Ahmed, 20, in the blast and is represented by advocate Shahid Nadeem, has already written to the judge and the NIA to take help from the Maharashtra ATS which was at one point investigating the case.

The trial in the 2008 blast case began on November 2, 2018. The prosecution agency submitted a list of around 286 witnesses including doctors, police officials, forensic experts and panch witnesses. The court on October 30, 2018, framed charges in the case against all seven accused for terror activities, criminal conspiracy and murder.

The accused even face trial under sections of the stringent Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA). The accused facing trial in the case include: col Purohit, politician Pragya Singh Thakur alias Sadhvi Pragya, major (retd.) Ramesh Upadhyay, Ajay Rahirkar, Sudhakar Dwivedi, Sudhakar Chaturvedi and Sameer Kulkarni.

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