Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Nearly 150 human rights activists protest rejection of anticipatory bail application of Teesta Setalvad

Gulberg Society, March 2002
By Our Representative
Nearly 150 prominent citizens -- mainly activists, academics and professionals -- have expressed their “deep shock” at the rejection of the anticipatory bail application of top human rights activist Teesta Setalvad and four others in the so-called Gulberg embezzlement case by the city sessions court of Ahmedabad. The statement said, “From its beginning, the so-called embezzlement has been the concoction of elements instigated by the Government of Gujarat, including the Gujarat crime branch.” It culminated in January 2014, when an FIR was registered against the five for “defrauding the members of the Gulberg Society of funds meant for the building of the Gulberg Memorial commemorating the state-sponsored carnage.”
The statement, which has been signed by citizens from across India, said, “It may be in order to recall the facts of the case, especially since a section of the media is spreading canards that the funds thus raised were used for buying jewellery, wine and such like, and gloating over the possibility of the arrest of Teesta Setalvad and others.” It added, “First, the complainant in the case, Feroze Khan, forged the letterhead of the Gulberg Society to file the complaint. A written complaint to this effect was sent to the Crime Branch, Ahmedabad Police by the office bearers of the Gulberg Society.”
The statement said, in March 2013, when the allegations first surfaced, the Centre for Justice and Peace (CJP) and Sabrang Trust, had provided “satisfactory explanation” to the Crime Branch and investigation had been dropped. “CJP clarified that at no point had it collected any amount or money or land from any person residing at or claiming to be part of Gulberg society. CJP and Sabrang issued a public affidavit which showed that only Rs 4.5 lakh had been collected for the proposed museum, of which Rs 50,000 was from foreign sources – but as the land prices spiraled, the dream for a memorial was abandoned. Its audited accounts and resolutions passed in the society proved as much”.
Then, “months after the investigation had been closed, the complaint was revived and the FIR registered in January 2014, as CJP was preparing for the filing of Zakia Jafri’s protest petition. It was a blatant move to jeopardize and demoralize the petitioners by the Gujarat government”, the statement alleged, adding, “Two of the co-accused in the case are survivors of the terrible massacre in Gulberg Society in February 2002: Salimbhai Sandhi who lost five family members including his son Mohammed; and Firoz Gulzar Pathan, who also lost five from his family. The third co-accused is Tanvir Jafri, son of the former MP, Ehsan Jafri, who was also hacked and burnt to death in the massacre.”
Pointing out that “there can be little doubt that this FIR is part of a long series of vindictive actions undertaken by the vengeful Gujarat government – fraudulent cases have been filed earlier too – to teach Teesta Setalvad and CJP a ‘lesson’ for continuing the struggle for justice”, the statement said, “We are disappointed that the sessions court has chosen to reject the anticipatory bail applications, thus making their arrests imminent.” It added, “In extending our heartfelt solidarity with Teesta Setalvad and other friends today, we reiterate our commitment to sharpen the struggle to preserve the values of democracy, secularism and justice.”

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