ATS raids at 12 Popular Front of India premises in Maharashtra, 20 activists arrested

Times of India | 2 weeks ago | 23-09-2022 | 05:03 am

ATS raids at 12 Popular Front of India premises in Maharashtra, 20 activists arrested

MUMBAI: In the wake of National Investigation Agency's (NIA) action on Popular Front of India (PFI) activists in several states, Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) on Thursday carried out raids at 12 premises across the state and arrested 20 people for allegedly waging war against the country and for indulging in unlawful activities of spreading communal disharmony through preaching. This is the highest number of arrests in a single day by ATS since 2004. The raids were carried out in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai, Thane, Aurangabad, Pune, Kolhapur, Beed, Parbhani, Nanded, Malegaon in Nashik district and Jalgaon. ATS has filed four cases in Mumbai, Nashik, Aurangabad and Nanded and seized Rs 3.5 lakh cash, phones, laptops and documents from the accused. A special court in Mumbai remanded five of the arrested accused, including advocate Shaikh Sadiq, to ATS custody till September 26. Special judge A M Patil, in his remand order, said the offences against them under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act and insurgency "are serious in nature". While waging war attracts death or life imprisonment, the UAPA offence attracts seven years in jail. Special public prosecutor Sunil Gonsalves sought 14 days' custody citing a detailed remand plea which alleged "anti-national" acts and spread of "communal hatred" through use of computers. An ATS officer said, "The activities of PFI members were being watched. It was after collecting sufficient evidence, the offences were registered." At a press conference, Izaz Momin, convenor of PFI, said, "It is easy to label someone as anti-national. We will put up a collective fight...The agencies are targeting PFI because it has filed several cases against the RSS. The government is acting vindictively and against the spirit of secularism." Advocate S A Shaikh, appearing for Sadiq, said, "The preliminary probe by ATS has resulted in no material against Sadiq. Only a laptop has been recovered from him and nothing from the other four...Religious preaching files in the laptop do not amount to instigation or act of terror..." Advocate B Sharada, legal aid lawyer for the four others, concurred. In the raid at Bhiwandi, ATS arrested Mainuddin Momin (38), who sells chocolates and biscuits. His relative Muddasar Momin said Mainuddin had quit PFI a few years ago and was not involved in any anti-national activities. In Pune, ATS initially detained five people for questioning and later arrested two "persons affiliated to PFI". Pune PFI president Mohammed Kaiz Shaikh told TOI, "The NIA and ATS have arrested two persons in Kondhwa."

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