EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW
Why do you think charges against you were dropped?
I think they did not find any prosecutable evidence against me. And they couldn’t create fake evidence against me.
On what basis were you apprehended?
The immediate motivation, I think, came from the fact that I was living in the same house where the other accused in the case lived. When the police came to arrest them, they didn’t know I lived in the same house. When they realised that I am a journalist, they started connecting the dots haphazardly. And linked me in the so-called assassination plot.
What kind of interrogation were you subjected to? Did it include physical torture?
We were arrested on 29 August 2012. The interrogation started on 31 August. Initially, two men from the Intelligence Bureau (IB) interrogated me. The first question they asked me was whether I was from Jammu and Kashmir. They were sympathetic towards me in the beginning. But one of the things that really shocked me was when they asked if I was regular with my prayers. You kind of guess from their questions the kind of profiling they attempt to do. I was questioned by about 10 to 12 security agencies, including the NIA, and the Delhi, Tamil Nadu, Andhra, Kerala and Gujarat police. The other accused were tortured. One of them was beaten, hung upside down, and petrol was poured over his genitals. Nerves to his legs have been permanently damaged and he can no longer walk straight. And another accused, Obaid-ur- Rehman (from Hyderabad), had his index finger broken during interrogation. They were also subjected to electric shocks on their genitals.
Based on your personal experience how do you assess the Indian investigative process? Are the investigating agencies biased against Muslim suspects?
One thing is certain: they are not sensitive towards certain communities. It’s more like stereotyping. When it comes to a particular kind of charges, they look for particular victims. When it comes to Muslims there is greater insensitivity, I think. The bias is rooted in the investigative process.
Are the investigating agencies prejudiced or objective in their investigations?
It depends. When they want to be objective, they act objectively. When they want to be prejudiced, they behave likewise. They have a set pattern to dealing with such cases.
Do you think the media was fair and objective in covering your version of the events?
The media, barring a few exceptions, wasn’t objective and fair. And it was because this was a terrorism case, where, according to the media, the accused were high-profile persons. We were all well established Muslim youths who were working in reputed companies, publications and defence establishments. The media had enough ‘masala’ to cook a spicy dish. And that is what it did.
Do you think your friends will also be freed?
I am very hopeful that they will be freed. The question is not whether they will be freed or not, but when? Because what happens in such cases is, courts, for lack of evidence, acquit most of the accused. But after spending years behind bars, freedom is meaningless.
Do you feel there is a need for judicial or legal review of the UAPA (Unlawful Activities and Prevention Act)?
There is a strong case for legal review. Although the Act is less draconian, than its predecessors like POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act), it has very strict provisions. Especially when innocents are framed, it is very difficult for them to get bail. I am not saying the police always pick innocent people. There might be genuine cases. But when it comes to innocent people, they have no legal aid at their disposal.
I feel relieved that my name was cleared of terror charges: Journalist Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui
After being branded a terrorist and charged with waging war against the state, journalist Muthi-ur-Rehman Siddiqui has been acquitted by the NIA Court on Monday 25 February.
The Special Court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on Monday issued a detailed written order on his release. He was accused of involvement in the Bangalore terror module case.