After spending nine long years in jail, a Special Court acquitted Mohammed Ilyas (38) and Mohammed Irfan (33) of all the charges, including the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA), on Tuesday, June 15, stating that there was no evidence against them.
The two were arrested by Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) in 2012 along with three others and convicted of having seized firearms and alleged link with terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).
Meanwhile, three men identified as Mohammed Muzammil, Mohammed Sadiq, and Mohammed Akram were arrested and sentenced to 10 years in jail in connection with the case.
Bails Rejected Multiple Times
The Maharashtra ATS had arrested Irfan and Ilyas, among five others, from Nanded on August 31, 2012, for seizing firearms and alleging that they were members of a Lashkar-e-Taiba conspiracy to kill politicians, police officers, and journalists, The Indian Express reported.
The special police force reportedly claimed that two of its officers had received a tip-off about four men carrying firearms were travelling towards Nanded.
A year later, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case.
According to the media report, Ilyas had applied for bail four times in nine years, but it was rejected every time. However, Irfan had secured bail from the Bombay High Court in 2019. The court noted that the police were unable to present reasonable ground to arrest him. He was out on bail for four months until the Supreme Court stayed his bail order.
The Apex Court granting a stay on the High Court's order came after the NIA said that it might affect the nation's security.
Jamiat Ulama E Maharashtra team, representing Irfan and Ilyas, informed the Court that the former was neither issued a notice nor was given time to respond to the order.
Following the Top Court's order, Irfan surrendered on December 4, 2019, and served his period until Tuesday.
Lost 9 Years In Jail
After being released from Navi Mumbai's Taloja Jail, the duo said they regret the nine years they lost behind bars without crime.
"Bas, nau saal jo gaye, sab hawa main (nine years are lost)," the media quoted Irfan as saying. "We will not get back the nine years we spent in jail," he added.
In the course of those four months, he was out on bail, Irfan said he had a ray of hope to start afresh and get his life back on track, but with the SC's notice, the rest 18 months seemed way more difficult than all the years he was behind bars earlier.
After their release, both visited the Jamiat Ulama E Maharashtra office and thanked the authorities for their unconditional support.
Before being convicted, Ilyas had a fruit business in Nanded, and Irfan owned an inverter battery shop.