After 6 months in jail as 'terror suspect', a journalist returns

DF

About six months ago, when he appeared in court for the first time after being named by the Bangalore Police in an alleged Lashkar-e-Toiba plot to target local right-wing media personalities, Muthi ur Rehman Siddiqui, 26, a reporter and sub-editor with the Deccan Herald newspaper here, still had the glint of youthful exuberance in his eyes.

But now, the first thing that comes to mind on seeing Siddiqui after his release from prison on Monday, is the disappearance of that enthusiasm from his face. Gone is the glint in his eyes, and in its place is a serious, sad man.

"I always thought the police, media and society at large do not treat terror suspects fairly. That thinking has been reinforced by my experience,'' said Siddiqui on Tuesday.

Among 15 youths arrested by the Bangalore Police last August-September from Bangalore, Hubli, Nanded and Hyderabad in an alleged LeT-linked terror plot — that has now been linked to the February 21 twin blasts in Hyderabad — Siddiqui was released on Monday after the NIA, which took over the case, reported no "prosecutable evidence" against him and co-accused Yusuf Nalband, 24.

As the NIA did not name Siddiqui and Nalband, a commerce graduate working in a private firm, in its chargesheet filed on February 20, a special court ordered their release on February 23.

"I feel really relieved that I have been able to come out clean. It is a huge victory for me and the community at large, because this is not one individual's fight,'' said Siddiqui. "People called me the mastermind of the group. If I am the mastermind, then my friends who have been arrested must also be released,'' he said.

The arrests were made on the basis of intelligence inputs of contacts between some of the youths and LeT-linked persons in Saudi Arabia. But there was no clear case against Siddiqui. It was alleged that he was providing radical literature and his office computer was seized.

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