Activist Umar Khalid’s lawyer on Tuesday told a Delhi court that the protests held in the city against the Citizenship Amendment Act was secular in nature, but the chargesheet filed against him was communal, reported Live Law.

Senior Advocate Trideep Pais made the comment during a hearing of Khalid’s bail plea in a case related to the communal violence that broke out in the national Capital between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing the law in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26, 2020.

The violence claimed 53 lives and hundreds were injured. The majority of those killed were Muslims.

Khalid has been charged under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act along with two students of the city’s Jamia Millia Islamia University, Meeran Haider and Safoora Zargar.

In their first information report, the police had alleged that Khalid made provocative speeches at two protest sites and appealed to the people of Delhi to hold demonstrations in streets during former United States President Donald Trump’s visit to India. The Delhi violence coincided with Trump’s visit.

Khalid’s aim was to spread “propaganda at the global level” about how minorities in India were being mistreated, the FIR stated.

At Tuesday’s hearing, Pais contended that the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act were secular and attended by several eminent personalities from various fields. The lawyer read out a statement of a witness who had alleged that Khalid paid women to participate in the protests and was a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee.

Police have alleged that the committee hatched a conspiracy to incite the violence.

“Please see how poor the evidence is,” the advocate told the court. “When he [witness] speaks of money, he doesn’t speak of me [Khalid]. When he speaks of my presence [at the committee meeting], I was present with a lot of people.”

Pais questioned why the witness was not an accused in the case if he was present at the meeting, reported Bar and Bench.

Pais questioned whether any of the women had appeared before the prosecution to support the allegation

“Don’t they have their own say?” he asked, according to The Indian Express.

He said that the allegations against Khalid were the product of the “fertile imagination” of the investigation officer.

“This person is not an IO [investigating officer],” Pais contended. “He is a scriptwriter. Literally, this is a novella the person has written.”

He also said that in the chargesheet, none of the witnesses have said that Khalid was present at Jamia Millia Islamia – one of the places where the police claim Khalid made a speech that led to the violence.

“There are two ways by which they are trying to implicate me,” Pais said. “Much after the riots happened they registered the case. They cooked up statements or they simply match my cdr [call detail records] location and if they matched with co accused, they arrested me.”

The hearing will continue on November 8.

At an earlier hearing of the case on October 12, Khalid had asked if forming a WhatsApp group of Muslim students amounted to terrorism, adding that there were no witnesses to show that he had formed the WhatsApp group. Pais had also claimed that the statements of witnesses cited in the chargesheet were made up.