Court discharges Hurriyat leader, photojournalist in militant funding case

NEW DELHI — A Delhi court has discharged Kashmiri photojournalist Kamran Yousuf, Hurriyat leader Asiya Andrabi and vendor Javed Ahmad Bhat in a 2017 militancy funding case, The Indian Express reported.

The Delhi court, in its March 16 order, discharged photojournalist Kamran Yusuf, vendor Javed Ahmad Bhat, and Asiya Andrabi, who were made accused by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India in the 2017 militancy-funding case, saying the evidence against them was insufficient.

In all, there were 17 accused in the case, including Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) chief Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, Hizb-ul-Mujahideen (HM) head Syed Salahuddin, former JKLF chief Yasin Malik, Shabir Shah, late SAS Geelani’s son-in-law Altaf Ahmad Shah, Zahoor Ahmad Shah Watali, and Farooq Ahmad Dar. The court, however, ordered the framing of charges against the remaining 14 accused under various IPC sections and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, the report said.

The NIA had alleged that Yusuf and Bhat were involved in several stone-pelting incidents and had links with the over-ground workers of some militancy outfits. However, Special Judge (NIA) Parveen Singh in his March 16 order said there was not sufficient evidence to raise a suspicion that the two accused were part of a larger conspiracy.

“There is no evidence before the court that reflects that they were part of a conspiracy to propagate a secessionist agenda,” the court said. Both the accused were out on bail since 2018.

The NIA had filed a case in 2017 and then filed the charge sheet against all the 17 accused from Kashmir, alleging that they were conspiring with militant organisations such as LeT and HM to ‘instigate general public to resort to violence’ in a bid to propagate their ‘secessionist agenda’.

Quoting the court documents, the report said the NIA alleged that the militant organisations with the support of Pakistan, in connivance with the accused, were ‘raising, receiving and collecting funds locally as well as abroad’ through illegal channels to fund the protests.

In charges against Yusuf and Bhat, the NIA had relied on various documents, including a report of Anantnag DIG, identifying Yusuf as a member of WhatsApp group ‘Pulwama Rebels’, and another document that stated he had posted pictures of militants with the caption ‘Freedom coming soon’. Another document claimed Yusuf was in contact with one Adil, who was an overground worker of militant outfits, and that Bhat was an overground worker of HM.

The court, however, said these were only unsubstantiated opinions; and while discharging Yusuf and Bhat, it noted that the statements of two protected witnesses were similar, the Indian Express reported.

“No basis for drawing this conclusion has been placed on record…thus in absence of any evidence, these merely remain unsubstantiated opinions. Now, take the statements of the witnesses. I find that these are two very vague statements which on the face of it, have been given in a very routine manner, a fact which is further verified because both are verbatim same. Therefore, the evidence pressed against the accused 11, 12 (Yusuf and Bhat) is on a very weak footing and can only raise a slight suspicion, not grave suspicion about the involvement of the accused in these incidents,” the court observed.

While ordering the framing of charges against the other accused, the court made three important observations.

“On money being given to the families of those killed or injured, it can be and has been argued that this was a humanitarian effort to help the victims of unrest. However, scrub the surface and out comes a sinister plot. Create unrest, unleash violence and aid the victims with Pakistani funds which shall lead to the creation of a class of people ready to join the cadres of secessionists and militants. The end object makes it nothing but an act of militancy funding. Coming together with these people again points towards a conspiracy and Pakistani hand in it,” it said.

On criminal conspiracy, there ‘appears’ to be a third kind of conspiracy that has emerged. “…I call it the orchestra conspiracy. As in an orchestra, each player has its own instrument to play but shares the same stage, every player or member of the orchestra knows the other player and the role the other person has to play. It is the conductor of the orchestra holding the baton in his hand who with the raising of his baton directs which player has to play when and what part.”

On ‘Gandhian path’ for protests, prima facie they were not following the Gandhian path but their plan was straight from the playbook of the likes of Hitler and the ‘march of The Brownshirts’. The object was to overawe the government by the sheer scale of violence, and nothing less than a plan for insurrection, the report added quoting the court rulings.

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