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Siddique Kappan's bail in SC opposed by UP govt, says has deep links with PFI

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Siddique Kappans bail in SC opposed by UP govt, says has deep links with PFI
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Siddique Kappan (file photo)

New Delhi: On Monday, September 5, the government of Uttar Pradesh lodged a strong declaration of objection in the Supreme Court opposing the bail application made by imprisoned Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan. Siddique's plea is "riddled with contradictions," stated the government's application, and the police investigation has shown that he has "deep links" to "terror funding or planning with the Campus Front of India, the student wing of the Popular Front of India."

On October 5, 2020, Siddique and three other people were detained as they travelled to Hathras in Uttar Pradesh to report on the rape and murder of a Dalit woman by dominant caste men.

On Friday, September 9, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear Siddique's request for bail. During the previous hearing, the Supreme Court sent the Uttar Pradesh government a notice requesting a response.

According to evidence presented in court by the UP government, an investigation showed that Siddique had a close nexus and deep connection with the "extremist PFI" and a "close nexus with the top leadership of PFI/CFI (which is basically formed of ex-SIMI members), who in turn have been found to have connections with Al Qaeda linked organisations like IHH in Turkey".

His bail application was opposed by the government on seven different grounds. Siddique allegedly omitted to declare on his application that he had worked for Gulf Thejas Daily while he was in Saudi Arabia in 2009, but the police learned of this after looking at his resume. Thejas is a mouthpiece for the "extremist organisation Popular Front of India (PFI)" in Malayalam, according to the government. PFI was "compelled to shut down in India in 2018 amidst reports (including one by a Kerala High Court appointed independent committee) that the paper's coverage was aimed at creating religious discord", the government claimed. The government cited a report in the newspaper where Osama Bin Laden was referred to as a "martyr" adding that this shows that Siddique was "closely associated for more than a decade with a so-called newspaper/publication which has blatantly espoused terrorist causes".

According to the UP government, Siddique claimed he was headed to Hathras to report on the rape and murder case, but in fact, he was travelling with individuals who had previously been arrested for other crimes. The National Treasurer of CFI and an accused in a case involving the 2019 Muzaffarnagar riots, Atik-ur-Rahman, was his fellow traveller, according to the government. His second companion, Masood Ahmad, a former general secretary of the CFI's Delhi chapter, is a suspect in a Bahraich riots case, according to the government. According to the authorities, Alam, the driver of the cab the four were riding in, is the sibling of a man charged in connection with the Delhi riots of 2020, according to the News Minute.

"If the Petitioner (Siddique) was, in fact, a "journalist" exercising his professional duties as claimed, why would he be travelling with known riot accused persons? The Petitioner has not been able to provide any satisfactory explanation for the same," the government said.

The UP government refuted Siddique's claims to the court that he was travelling to Hathras to carry out his journalistic duties by claiming that while he had claimed to be carrying only his press club card, the Thejas ID was also discovered on him, despite the publication's closure in 2018. The government said that he had not been assigned to cover the Hathras event by the publication for which he was working as a freelancer, Azhimukhum and that his claim that he was travelling as a "journalist" was simply a cover-up.

Siddique was a member of a delegation that Rauf Sharif, National General Secretary of the CFI, who the government referred to as the "prime fundraiser and financial transaction handler for PFI/CFI," sent to Hathras, according to documents the government filed to the court. The government also stated that Rauf, who the police claim is also involved in a different PMLA case that the Enforcement Directorate is looking into, had contributed money for the trip.

As part of a "larger conspiracy to foment religious strife and spread terror in the country, especially in the wake of the anti-CAA protests and violence, the Babri Masjid decision, and the Hathras incident," the government claimed that Siddique and Rauf were in contact and involved in the Hathras incident.

The government disagreed with Siddique's claim to the court that he had nothing incriminating on him, claiming that three sets of pamphlets of 17 pages had been discovered in the vehicle he was travelling in. The pamphlets, according to the government, were "a 'Rioting 101' for rioters, teaching them how to, among other things, conceal themselves from the police, which "riots" to attend, and to "recognise the place you are rioting in".

Additionally, according to the UP government, Siddique made false statements about the Rs 45,000 placed into his account just days prior to his travel to Hathras. It stated that while Siddique had initially claimed that Rs 25,000 was for his house expenses and Rs 20,000 was a payment from a friend, he later claimed that "the alleged payments made to the applicant are relating to his salary paid for working at Thejas Daily" in a supplementary application submitted before the Allahabad High Court.

The government said that the police had analysed Siddique's chats with Kamal KP, General Secretary, PFI, which spoke of a 'secret workshop,' and after this, Siddique "told him to delete the chats." After this, the government said, the money was deposited in his account. (Siddique) pleaded that the workshop referenced.. was merely a Wikipedia workshop; however the same begs the question: why would the Petitioner ask the recipient (Kamal KP) to delete the voice note if it were for something as innocuous as a Wikipedia workshop?" the government said.

Siddique's bail plea was opposed by the UP government stating that "all co-accused are notorious criminals with multiple riot-related investigations pending against them". Calling Siddique a "mastermind at evading police", the government said that Siddique's bail petition be dismissed as "there is every likelihood of evidence being discovered and tampering of the same".

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