Activist Umar Khalid’s lawyer on Monday told a court in the national capital that the witnesses in the North East Delhi riots case made “cooked up statements”, The Indian Express reported.
Senior Advocate Trideep Pais made the comments during a hearing of Khalid’s bail plea in a case related to the communal violence that broke out between the supporters of the Citizenship Amendment Act and those opposing the law in North East Delhi between February 23 and February 26 last year.
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.
During Monday’s hearing, Pais read out a protected witness’s statement before the court, The Indian Express reported. The advocate pointed out that the witness’s “cherry picking of names” in his statement indicated “a pattern of false implication” in the first information report of the riots conspiracy case.
In the 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 first information report claimed.
“Where in his [witness] statement, or chargesheet, where is the distinction in the role of persons?” Pais questioned on Monday. “You pick one person and leave others. I [Khalid] am not saying others should be arrested...Most people assigned roles are not arrested and I am arrested.”
The advocate added that the witness was unable to classify Khalid’s activities as conspiracies or acts of terrorism.
Pais also recounted that the Delhi Police had alleged Khalid wanted rioting and “blood to spill on the streets”. The advocate said that the police could not recover any items from Khalid to prove their claims.
The police had also accused Khalid of conducting a secret meeting in Seelampur to plan the North East Delhi riots. Countering this, the former Jawaharlal Nehru University’s student’s counsel told the court, “Picture was downloaded [of the meeting]. I didn’t know pics were put on Facebook. You allow yourself to be photographed. And you call it a secret meeting?”
Pais added that none of the witnesses in the case had said that it was a secret meeting. The advocate said that if Khalid was deemed to be the mastermind of North East Delhi riots, he would not have spoken about the conspiracy in front of protected witnesses.
The advocate told the court that only four messages were sent to the Delhi Protests Support Group on WhatsApp, which the authorities claimed were used to plan the riots.
“Witness is clearly a cooked up witness,” Pais said. “You can’t have half truth to make a case against me [Khalid]...Most vicious language is used because once you cook up a statement, you can say anything.”
The hearing in the case will continue on November 16.
At a previous hearing on November 2, Pais had read out another witness statement in which it was claimed that Khalid paid women to participate in the protests and was a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee.
The lawyer had questioned why the witness was not an accused in the case if he was present at the meeting. He had also said that the allegations against Khalid were the product of the “fertile imagination” of the investigation officer.