An Indian court Monday granted police a 12-day remand to question two brothers who were arrested for alleged links to the Islamic State (IS), although their lawyer claimed police had “no tangible evidence.”
Wasim Ramodiya, 32, and Naem Ramodiya, 28, who were taken into custody by the Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Sunday, will face interrogation before they are produced in court on March 10, police said.
The Ramodiya brothers were under surveillance for two years, Gujarat ATS Superintendent of Police Himanshu Shukla told BenarNews.
“We arrested them just in the nick of time as they were planning a terror strike on a famous temple in the state soon,” Shukla said, adding that while Wasim was arrested in Gujarat’s Rajkot town, Naem was picked up in Bhavnagar, about 175 km (108 miles) away.
Police recovered bomb-making materials and IS literature from the suspects, Shukla said.
“We also have audio recordings of their telephone conversations that indicate they were in touch with IS handlers. Our surveillance revealed that the brothers were in touch with IS suspect Mufti Qasmi,” he said. Qasmi was arrested in Uttar Pradesh state in February 2016.
“So far they haven’t denied any of these accusations, but are answering our questions in a vague manner. We want to put them through intense questioning over the next 12 days to collect enough evidence against them,” Shukla said.
Lawyer: ‘flimsy evidence’
Lawyer Imtiyaz Hussain Koreja said his clients had been arrested based on “extremely flimsy and circumstantial evidence” and would contest their arrests.
“The allegations made by the police are baseless. There is no tangible or even intangible evidence against my clients that they are connected to any terror organization. We will be challenging the arrests and move a bail application on March 10,” Koreja told BenarNews.
“We will also be taking up the issue on various other fronts, including with human rights organizations, because this is not the first time Indian police have tried to falsely implicate innocent people in terror-related cases,” he said.
While government officials consistently deny IS has made any significant inroads in India, about 70 people have been arrested and are facing trial for alleged links with the Middle East-based terror outfit.
Intelligence agencies claim that some 50 Indian Muslims have left for the Middle East to fight alongside the IS. Among them, at least seven have died in battle.
Rights activist Kavita Srivastava of the People’s Union for Civil Liberties said she found it hard to believe allegations leveled against the Ramodiya brothers.
“Indian security agencies routinely target members of the Muslim community by falsely implicating them in terror cases. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if years later the court releases them (Ramodiya brothers) because the police had no evidence to back the allegations,” Srivastava told BenarNews.
“The government conveniently ignores the fact that such targeting only leads to more alienation and bitter ashes of memories among minority groups,” she said.
Meanwhile, the suspects’ father, Arif Ramodiya, is shocked that his sons have been arrested on terrorism charges.
“The police have not presented me with any information or documents regarding the arrest of my sons. I have no idea what to do, who to approach or what to say,” Arif told BenarNews from Rajkot.