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Journalist walks out of jail: Case of mistaken identity or institutional bias?
On 29th August 2012, a group of 15 Muslim youths were detained by the Bangalore police claiming a big breakthrough by busting a Lashkar-e-Toiba sleeper cell planning to assassinate leading Kanada journalists. The police claimed that these 15 men were targeting the journalists because of their right-wing affiliations. The group included youths employed with a leading English daily, junior scientist with DRDO, private employees and students.

The case was being handled by the Central Crime Branch of Bangalore police before the National Investigation Agency took over the case to probe the suspects further. As per the Bangalore police, Muthi-ur-Rahman Siddique, a journalist with a leading English daily was the mastermind of the plot. The ‘mastermind’ used to spend long hours in office in order to access and gather jihadi literature. He even used to take long leaves and did not stay with the family during these leaves. The computer seized from the mastermind had secret codes by which he used to communicate with his fellows and handler based in Saudi Arabia.

The NIA post taking over the case, interrogated the suspects as they could help agencies in rounding up other suspects and provide vital clues of the terror network. The NIA filed its charge sheet in the NIA special court in Bangalore of 20th February 2013. The charge sheet did not contain anything against the journalist, based on which the court absolved him of all terror charges and granted him bail.

Siddique walked out of the jail as a free man on 25th February 2013 only to live with the ordeal that he has suffered for six months while he was behind bars. Addressing a presser, the one-time youth with big dreams, looked a sad serious man.

Siddique narrated the way the suspects were being treated, and how they were subjected to serious torture on their private parts. He also narrated being questioned about being a native of Jammu & Kashmir, “how regular was I with my prayers” and so on. Siddique did believe that the investigative agencies are insensitive towards certain sections when they have to find culprits for a particular charge.

Siddique also said about the way media reported the arrests and sensationalized the whole episode. As per him, the basic principles of journalism are not considered, except by few media agencies whenever terrorism related coverage is done. The police version is taken as sacred and nothing done by the media in order to examine the contradiction narrated by them and questioning their rationale.

It’s ironical that Siddique while pursuing his post-graduation had shown his interest in doing a thesis on “Media coverage of terrorism suspects” which he could not pursue due to lack of required support. He was himself subjected to the same treatment on which his research was to be based on.

Siddique now hopes the court, which absolved him of all charges after he was labeled as the mastermind of the whole plot, also frees the rest of the suspects. He says that they also should be freed in reasonable time, as being granted freedom after a prolonged period is meaningless. Siddique's case becomes the third in which a journalist had been arrested for terror charges initially, and later on, released on bail by the respective courts.

 

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