UP opposes Siddique Kappan bail plea, tells SC: He is PFI think tank, advised hit squad

Opposing Kerala journalist Siddique Kappan’s bail plea, the Uttar Pradesh Police that arrested him under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act-1967 has told the Supreme Court that “investigation has revealed that petitioner is the think tank of PFI (Popular Front of India)” and had even “advised” one of the two PFI “hit squad” members arrested with explosives in Lucknow in February last year.

In an affidavit filed in the top court in response to a notice on Kappan’s plea on August 29, the UP Police Special Task Force (STF), which is investigating the case, said that Ansad Badruddin, “a close associate” of Kappan, and “one Firoz (both co-accused) were arrested in Lucknow with explosives”, adding, they were the “hit squad” of the PFI who were funded by Rauf Sharif (national general secretary of CFI, PFI’s student wing) and Kamal K P, and were advised by the petitioner who was the “think tank” of the PFI, and had “directed them to target Hindu organisations…”

The Enforcement Directorate, it claimed, “has found Sharif to be the main fundraiser and money launderer of the CFI, which utilised Sharif’s account…lakhs [rupees] of money was transferred to Sharif’s account from abroad and then funneled into illegal and terrorist activities in India. Interrogations of Sharif detailed the entire money trail; how it was laundered and what terrorist/unlawful acts it was used towards. One such money trail was the money transferred to co-accused Atiq-ur-Rahman to hire the cab to take the CFI delegation to Hathras on 05.10.2020”.

Kappan and three others, including the driver of their vehicle, were arrested in Mathura on October 5, 2020, while they were on their way to Hathras, where a Dalit woman had died after she was allegedly gangraped. They were booked under the UAPA and on charges of sedition.

Kappan had claimed that he was employed with a web portal ‘Azhimukham’ which had “deputed” him to go to Hathras to report on the incident, but the STF sought to contradict him, saying, “the statement of the Editor of Azhimukham…nowhere states that the said publication had deputed the petitioner to cover the Hathras incident; it merely states that the petitioner had at 12.10am on 5.10.2022, sent the office a WhatsApp message that he is going to Hathras”.

It added that “moreover, the official Twitter handle of the CFI had tweeted in February 2021: “Campus Front Delegation was arrested earlier en route to Hathras and falsely charged with draconian laws…”

The STF also accused him of suppressing facts in his bail plea.

Kappan, it said, had stated he was “employed” in Saudi Arabia from 2002-2011, and that he had quit the job in 2011 and returned to Kerala where he “opted to join as a sub-editor of Thejas newspaper at Kozhikode”, but had not revealed that in Saudi too, “he was a reporter for Gulf Thejas Daily, Jeddah…”

It said that “Thejas is a Malayalam language mouthpiece of the PFI…” and “was compelled to shut down in India in 2018 amidst reports (including by a Kerala High Court-appointed independent committee) that the paper’s coverage was aimed at creating religious discord”.

The STF said contrary to Kappan’s claim that he was not carrying any identity card of Thejas, but only his Press Club of India card when arrested, “four IDs were seized from him, two of which were of Thejas Daily, one was of the Delhi Union of Journalists (which itself noted the petitioner’s organisation to be Thejas Daily) and one was a card of Press Club of India”.

Kappan, it said, “has conveniently brushed over the fact that when he was arrested, he was travelling with persons who were named as accused in previous riots cases…if Kappan was in fact a journalist exercising his professional duties as claimed, why would he be traveling with known riots accused persons”. The affidavit said he had not been able to satisfactorily explain this.

The STF said it has come out in the investigation that he “was actually part of the PFI/CFI delegation to meet the family of the Hathras victim and foment discord and spread terror. Investigation has revealed that the said delegation was sent to Hathras on the directions of co-accused Rauf Sharif, who had also provided finances for the trip”.

The STF said that it seized three-sets of a 17-page pamphlet from the car in which Kappan and others were travelling. “A perusal of the pamphlet would demonstrate that it is nothing more than a ‘Rioting 101’ for rioters”, teaching them how to, inter alia, conceal themselves from the police, which riots to attend, to “recognise the place you are rioting in”.

The affidavit also disputed Kappan’s claim about money found in his account. It pointed out that he claimed that Rs 25,000 deposited in his account on September 15, 2020, “was money deposited by him which he had saved to construct a house” and that Rs 20,000 deposited on October 4, 2020, “was money that had been borrowed by friends and returned to him”.

“However, in his supplementary rejoinder before the High Court (which rejected his bail plea), the petitioner states that “the alleged payments made to the applicant are relating to his salary paid for working at Thejas Daily,” the STF affidavit said, adding “thus, there is a clear contradiction in the petitioner’s own version of the source of the said funds”.

The STF also said there are as many as 55 witnesses, including 11 public witnesses to be examined in the case and that “there is a grave and credible threat to the lives of these witnesses, who are already being targeted and trolled online for giving evidence against the petitioner”.

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