Refuting the Delhi Police’s claims that arrested journalist Syed Kazmi’ and his wife had been receiving ‘illegal and un-accounted’ foreign remittances regularly, the family members and friends of Syed Kazmi on Wednesday produced documents at a press conference held at Press Club of India in New Delhi.
The documents produced establish that there was nothing illegal and suspicious about the money transferred in family’s account.
Last month, the Delhi Police Commissioner B. K. Gupta alleged that Kazmi’s wife Jahan Ara Kazmi had received Rs.18.78 lakh in foreign remittances and Kazmi Rs.3.8 lakh, indicating that these transactions were unaccounted for. However, according to the documents available (a copy of which is with this reporter) these transactions date back at least four years and originate in the Gulf Emirate of Dubai.
They are following a regular monthly pattern and were all sent by Jahanara Kazmi’s son from a previous marriage to Kazmi’s long deceased elder brother.
The friends, gathered under the banner of Kazmi Solidarity Committee, a group of eminent journalists, activists, lawyers and academician in defence of Syed Kazmi said, “We believe that this interpretation of available facts strains credulity”. They further said, “It has also fostered a sense of public hostility towards Kazmi’s case by suggesting that these remittances were received in the months of February and March, when they were actually spread over several years. This is deliberate and blatant misrepresentation of facts”.
Forced to confess, says Kazmi
According to a hand-written application dated 2nd April, filed by Syed Kazmi before Vinod Yadav, Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (CMM) of Tis Hazari Courts of Delhi, he was forced to confess. “I was forced to sign on papers which were not given for reading. I was also made to sign on blank papers…When I refused; I was constantly threatened about my life and well being of my family. The Delhi Police Special Cell people were doing all things as per their will without caring for law,” reads the application. Kazmi further alleges, “I would also like to state that the applicant was never consulted before any statement.
In some instances, I was forced under duress to speak as if I was comfortable and willing to give statements. I apprehend that a video might have been made to mislead the proceeding in the courts”.
It can be noted here, Kazmi was interrogated through the early phase of his detention by unidentified persons. Contrary to the clear guidelines laid down in the D.K. Basu case, several of the police personnel who interrogated him did not wear name tags or uniforms. This earned the Special Branch of the Delhi Police a stern reprimand by CMM Vinod Yadav on March 17.
‘Why delay in filling Charge-sheet’
Raising doubts about the unnecessary delay in filling charge sheet members of the committee asked, “if the police so sure about involvement of Mr. Kazmi in the case, why not they are filling charge-sheet”. Kazmi’s bail application was turn down by CMM Vinod Yadav holding that global inquiries into the bombing might be compromised by his release. The CMM also acceded in large part to a prosecution request not to discuss evidence in open court.
But the members of committee asks, “If the Delhi Police are so anxious that their evidence should not be known to the wider public, we question how they have been putting out selective leaks with the seeming intent to influence the public mood”.
Kazmi was remanded to twenty days in police custody on March 7 but transferred to judicial custody four days before this remand period expired. This was done without prior notice to the family or Kazmi’s defence lawyers and ostensibly because the Special Branch of the Delhi Police had no further need to keep him. His bail application came up before the CMM on March 30 but the hearing was adjourned till April 3 because prosecution lawyers were not present.
“We question this quite blatant violation of procedure by the Delhi Police in a matter with serious international ramifications,” said the members of the committee. Wednesday’s press conference was addressed by Eminent Journalists, John Cherian, Sukumar Murlidharan, Seema Mustufa, Activists Shabnam Hashmi, Manisha Sethi, the Supreme Court Lawyer, Colin Gonsalves and Kazmi’s Wife Jahan Ara Kazmi.
Eminent Journalists Vouched for Kazmi
At the press conference senior and eminent journalists vouched for Kazmi’s integrity and demanded his immediate release. Eminent journalist and Frontline’s Chief of Bureau, John Cherian said “Kazmi was the easiest scapegoat. A lot of us, including Syed Kazmi and Seema Mustufa, went to Iraq in 2002 to cover the war… That was the first time I met him”. Recalling his visit to Syria last year with Syed Kazmi, he added “Kazmi has always been proud of the work he’s done having covered wars. He is also very proud of his family. I hope he comes out unharmed. We will demand heavy reparation after his release for the wrongful arrest”.
Others journalists who are part of the committee includes, Senior Journalist and Former Editor of Tehelka Weekly, Ajit Sahi, Assistant Editor of Daily DNA, Iftikhar Gilani, Senior Journalist Javed Naqvi, Veteran Journalist, Kuldeep Nayyar, Writer and Columnist, Praful Bidwai, Political Editor of Outlook Weekly Saba Naqvi, Veteran Journalist Saeed Naqvi, Senior Journalist Sandeep Dixit, Editor of Monthly Hard News, Sanjay Kapoor, Senior Journalist, Zafar Agha.
The committee is an informal grouping of concerned journalists, civil rights activists and academics, united in the belief that a vast travesty of justice is taking place with the arrest and continuing incarceration of Syed Mohammad Ahmad Kazmi, a senior and well respected journalist.
Prof. Ali Javed, Prof. Anuradha Chenoy, Prof. Apoorvanand, Advocate Colin Gonsalves, Prof. Kamal Mitra Chenoy, Film maker Mahesh Bhat, Dr. Manisha Sethi, Activist Mansi Sharma, Advocate Nitya Ramakrishnan, Activist Shabnam Hashmi are also part of the committee. The committee will be holding a public meeting on 23 April in Delhi.
Kazmi was arrested on March 6. He was hustled into a police vehicle at 11:30 that morning as he emerged from the India Islamic Cultural Centre on Lodi Road. He was later produced before magistrate and remanded in to police custody for his alleged role in Israeli Embassy Bomb blast case.
(Mahtab Alam is a Delhi based Civil Rights Activist and Independent Journalist. He can be contacted at activist.journalist @gmail.com)