IN MORE placid times, Motilal Nagar, No. 2 would be just another by lane in one just another one of Mumbai’s suburbs — one with a predominantly Muslim population. However, it has been attracting continuous media attention for the last couple of months ever since one of its residents — 37-yearold Faheem Ansari — was taken into custody by the Mumbai Police Crime Branch for his role in the terror attacks of 26/11.
Faheem has been booked by the Mumbai police along with Sabauddin Ahmed and Imraan Shehzaad. Locals guide us to his residence without asking for the room number as all of them know the address. In my case, a young boy returning from his evening namaaz is my guide. Faheem’s family, which includes his two brothers, two sisters as well as his wife and 8-yearold daughter Iqraa, have tried to evade the media as far as possible. They are initially hesitant to answer questions but relent. Breaking her silence for the first time, Faheem’s wife Yasmin wants to know if the reports she has been hearing of his torture are true and if he has indeed been sexually assaulted. Her anxiety has risen after Faheem’s lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi, filed an application stating that Federal Bureau of investigation (FBI) officials from the US had ‘sexually assaulted’ Faheem during his interrogation. In the application Faheem states that three goras (Westerners) who Faheem feels could be FBI officials, or, as his lawyer speculates, Mossad agents, would torture him through the night and one of the ladies amongst the three would show him obscene videos. The application also said that due to the harassment Faheem had developed a rash and injuries on his private parts. Faheem has asked for a medical check up. While the court has issued a notice to the Crime Branch to reply by February 26, Crime Branch officials state on condition of anonymity that the allegations have been levelled only to gain sympathy and to prove that Faheem was being falsely implicated. While the officials refused to confirm or deny if Faheem was questioned, they did concede that the FBI and Scotland Yard officials were of great help and provided them with a breakthrough on various fronts.
Speaking to TEHELKA, Faheem’s lawyer Ejaz Naqvi said that although the Crime Branch has refused to concede that FBI agents had indeed questioned Ansari, Faheem had been going undergoing rigorous questioning on several nights by anonymous gora investigators. According to Naqvi, when he was able to meet Faheem for a couple of minutes in January, Faheem told him that the investigators had been keeping him awake through the nights, that they showed him obscene videos, tortured him and did not allow him to offer namaaz.
NAQVI SAYS that Faheem has confessed to giving maps of various places in the city to supposed LeT operatives, he added that Faheem had no idea of the maps’ purpose. Faheem’s wife says that she wanted to meet her husband and know the truth from him. “My inlaws went to meet Faheem just a day before the Mumbai 26/11 attacks when he was in the custody of the Special Task Force (STF) in UP. They were then told that we should think of applying for his bail as the Mumbai ATS had exonerated him and there was nothing to establish that he had any role in any terror act. My husband is a God-fearing man. He loved his family and his daughter — he could have never done something like this. They say in his interrogation report that Faheem was always interested in jehadi activities and that he idolised Osama Bin Laden. I don’t think this is true and I should know, I am his wife,” she says, holding back tears.
The last time she met her husband was a year ago when ATS officials in the state brought Faheem to their Goregaon residence to meet his family. The officials had brought him to Mumbai in February 2008 after he was arrested by the Uttar Pradesh Police for an attack on the CRPF camp that January. According to his interrogation report, Faheem was in touch with LeT operatives and had identified various prominent places in Mumbai where the attacks were later carried out. He had also identified Zaki ur Rehman, Muzammil, Kahafa, Abu Talha and various other operatives, most of whom have also been named in the dossier handed over to Pakistan. Sabauddin Ahmed, taken into custody along with Faheem Ansari by the Mumbai crime branch and co-accused in the attack on the CRPF camp has also been named as someone who did reconnaissance for the Mumbai attacks. At the time of his arrest, STF officials said that Ahmed, who was based in Kathmandu, was taking orders from Lashkar-e-Taiba leaders and had helped them cross over into the state.
The interrogation report states that Sabauddin did not know Faheem and the only time the two met was in Lucknow jail, says Naqvi, who is also Sabauddin’s lawyer. Naqvi adds that going by the interrogation reports of Faheem and Sabauddin given by the UP STF, if the two had indeed given them details of the planning and the maps of various installations then why was no cognizance taken of the same? Naqvi also asks why the Mumbai ATS gave Faheem a clean chit if they had evidence of Faheem’s involvement in the 26/11 attacks? The Mumbai Police was also caught on the backfoot after Mumbai Police Commissioner Hasan Ghafoor made a statement that locals were involved in the attacks, the police was on the lookout for them their names were included in the Pakistan list, only to retract his statement and say that the list of 16 included the 10 terrorist attackers and that the other six were LeT leaders based in Pakistan. Ghafoor added that the role of the other three arrested — Imran Shehzaad, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed — was being reviewed and would be disclosed only once the chargesheet was prepared.
Sources in the Crime Branch now say that Faheem has confessed to doing a reconnaissance of Nariman House, a detail which was missing from the STF chargesheet. According to Faheem’s lawyer, the investigators have refused to let Faheem meet him despite the court’s directive to do so. He also says that if his client was indeed being interrogated by the FBI then it was against the law as the court had remanded Faheem only to the Mumbai Police for questioning. While the Home Department has lauded Mumbai Police for its investigations which forced Pakistan to accept the role of its nationals in the attack, the confusion over locals has raised questions, answers to which the Crime Branch might only be able to give once the chargesheet in the case is submitted.