Two youths accused of being members of the banned terrorist organisation Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and instigating youth in Malvani, Malad,to join the organisation in 2015, pleaded guilty before a special court conducting their trial on Thursday.
On Thursday, Rizwan Ahmed, 25, and Mohsin Sayyed, 32, were produced before the court, as it was recording the testimony of a witness in the case. They both orally informed the court that they wanted to plead guilty. The youths had not discussed the same with their advocates. Their advocates Sharif Shaikh and Wahab Khan tried to advise them against their decision, but they would not budge. Special Judge under the NIA Act, A T Wankhede then told them to make a written application pleading guilty on the next date when they are produced, if they decide to stick with their decision.
The case was initially probed by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) before being taken over by the NIA. The agency claimed the youths were hardcore followers of the ISIS ideology, are its members and had conspired with absconding accused persons Ayaz Mohd Sultan and Yusuf Al-Hindi to propagate the ideology and propel youth to join the ISIS. It claimed that Al-Hindi was their handler and Ayaz had managed to get a visa in 2015 and gone to Kabul by taking a flight from New Delhi and joined the terrorist outfit. Rizwan, it claimed, was an officer bearer or ‘Nawab Ameer’, of the Jundal Khilafa Al-Hind, an Indian organisation bearing allegiance to the ISIS. In 2018, the special court framed charges against the two under provisions of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) dealing with conspiracy of terror activity, the membership of a terrorist organisation, support given to such outfit and for criminal conspiracy under the IPC.
Both Rizwan and Mohsin were arrested in January 2016. Advocate Khan said he had withdrawn his representation for Mohsin and would no longer appear for him. While the two did not give any reasons for pleading guilty, when earlier they had denied the charges and chosen to face trial, advocate Khan said, “The trial was proceeding very slowly. They had already lost six years in jail and the prosecution was saying they had another 200 witnesses to go." If they go ahead with pleading guilty, they could face life imprisonment, said advocate Khan.
Advocate Shahid Nadeem, part of the team that represents Rizwan, said they too would no longer represent Rizwan. He said, so far, 39 witnesses had testified, of whom two were star witnesses. Rizwan’s bail plea, rejected by the special court in May this year, was pending before the Bombay HC and scheduled for orders, said advocate Khan. In his bail plea before the special court, Rizwan had said he was young, had already been in prison for five years and suffers from tuberculosis. He claimed that the prosecution witnesses were already radicalised before meeting him. He further stated that the trial began in October 2018 and complained that there was an inordinate delay in the trial, with the prosecution having examined only 28 witnesses by the time he had filed the plea and 200 witnesses remained to be examined. He said he had been incarcerated for a long period on vague charges.