4 held for promoting terror activities, ISIS link sent to NIA custody till July 10 by court

The National Investigation Agency on Tuesday told a special NIA court four people, arrested for allegedly promoting terrorist activities at the behest of ISIS, wanted to “wage a war against the country” and were pushing the global militant outfit’s anti-India agenda.

The special court, presided over by Judge A K Lahoti, remanded the four persons, arrested on Monday, to NIA custody till July 10.

Seeking their remand, the NIA told the court there was information that the accused — identified as Tabish Siddiqui, Zubair Shaikh, Sharjeel Shaikh and Zulfikar Ali — were in touch with an international handler.

The anti-terror agency arrested them after conducting searches at five locations in Mumbai, Thane and Pune in Maharashtra and claimed they were part of an ISIS module.

The central probe agency, represented by special public prosecutor Sandeep Sadavarte, told the court the accused allegedly had active links with ISIS and were making efforts to motivate vulnerable youth to further the global terror organization’s anti-India agenda.

The NIA said several incriminating materials, including electronic gadgets and documents related to ISIS and social media posts, were found during searches conducted at the houses of the accused.

The accused were in touch with an international handler and their custody was needed to identify him and find out whether any other person was involved in conspiracy, it said.

“The material seized clearly exposed the strong and active linkages of the accused with ISIS and their efforts to motivate vulnerable youth to further the terror organisation’s anti-India agenda,” the NIA said.

The quartet was trying to breach the unity, integrity, security and sovereignty of the country and preparing to wage a war against the Government of India as part of an ISIS conspiracy, it said.

The accused had shared relevant material, including ‘Do it Yourself (DIY)’ kits among themselves, for fabrication of IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and manufacture of small weapons and pistols, the NIA alleged.

Opposing the NIA’s remand plea, defence lawyers submitted allegations against their clients were general in nature and no connection of the accused had been shown to any specific conspiracy.

Advocate Rajendra Rathod, appearing for Siddiqui, said material available on social media has been downloaded by his client.

“They are easily accessible online and not banned. It is a simple case of downloading some material available on social media,” he argued.

Advocate Hasnain Kazi, appearing for Zubair Sheikh, submitted the court has to strike a balance between personal liberty of the accused and rights of the investigation agency.

He contended the remand has been sought on the basis of “surmises, conjectures and assumptions”.

Lawyer Tahira Shaikh, representing Sharjeel Shaikh and Zulfikar Ali, said the duo’s social media posts (seized by the probe agency) were about religious teachings and they cannot be called criminal activity.

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Knives seized by the probe agency during searches are found in every household and it cannot be said to be incriminating material, Tahira Shaikh told the court.

Sharjeel Shaikh, from whose house a knife was recovered, claimed it was for self-defence.

“There had been many incidents of house break-ins at our village in Bhiwandi (in Thane district) and the knife was kept for self-defence,” he told the judge.

The court, after hearing all sides, remanded the accused to the NIA custody till July 10.

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