TN govt frees 9 Muslim terrorists of extremist Al Umma organisation
Posted by jagoindia on September 19, 2009
9 Al Umma prisoners released
Radha Venkatesan, TNN 16 September 2009,
COIMBATORE: He was a teenage `human bomb’ that failed to explode during the serial blasts that rocked the industrial hub of Coimbatore in February 1998. On Tuesday, a smiling Fakrudeen Ali Ahmed and eight other Al Umma prisoners, who were convicted for harbouring, planting and distributing explosives, walked free from Coimbatore Central Prison after the DMK government remitted their 13-year sentences on the occasion of the birth centenary of party founder C N Annadurai.
All nine prisoners were released from jail early Tuesday. Another fellow convict, Yousuf Abdul Wahab, who was also granted a pardon, was not freed because he faces two more criminal cases for harbouring explosives and intimidation of jail staff.
The nine prisoners who walked free are aged between 27 and 45; they were due for release in 2011. Taking into consideration provisions for `good conduct in jail’, they could have been let off either in December 2009 or sometime next year, say prison officials.
The state government’s decision to release them as a humanitarian gesture has raised legal questions because last year it had said it would not commute the sentences of prisoners convicted for serious crimes involving explosives, arms, drugs, and violence against women. The DMK government released more than 1,400 prisoners to mark the commencement of Anna’s birth centenary celebrations in September 2008, including some serving life sentences. A petition challenging the release is pending in Supreme Court.
This year, all nine convicts freed are members of a banned Islamic extremist group, who were jailed for carrying or harbouring explosives. They escaped life sentences because the bombs they planted did not go off.
Now, 42 Al Umma convicts, including the outlawed outfit’s leader S A Basha, who were all sentenced to life by a special court in 2007, remain in the Coimbatore prison. The explosions which rocked Coimbatore minutes before the arrival of BJP leader L K Advani during the 1998 Parliamentary election campaign had killed over 50 people and left several maimed.
The government’s decision to free the nine prisoners has drawn sharp criticism from both Muslim groups and the BJP, which was the prime target of the explosions. “How can the government pardon the functionaries of a banned terrorist organisation? It is condemnable and will lead to a spurt in terrorism once again in Tamil Nadu and help the Al Umma, which is lying low now, to rear its head once again,” said BJP’s state vice president, H Raja.
Some Muslim groups dismissed the releases as an “eyewash”. They pointed to the government’s decision last year to release life convicts who have completed seven years but not the Al Umma prisoners. “Even if the government had not remitted their sentences, these prisoners would have been let off in a couple of months because of their good conduct. It is just an eyewash by the government, which claims to be a saviour of the minorities,” said Abu Thahir, vice chairman of the Minorities Trust, which is offering legal assistance to the Al Umma convicts.
However, the `human bomb’ Fakrudeen, who was a 17-year-old lathe worker when he was arrested for allegedly carrying explosives in his shoulder bag, said, “I have lost my youth in jail despite having no role in the blasts. The government has to help me rebuild my shattered life.” The Class III dropout wrote his Class VIII exams and completed an automobile mechanics course in the prison. “No one will give me a job because I am branded a terrorist,” he sighed, sitting in his house in a crowded bylane in Pon Vizha Nagar near Ukkadam.