The Mumbai Police on Monday arrested a key accused in the 2002 bus blast in the suburb of Ghatkopar. The Crime Branch arrested Irfan Ahmed Gulam Ahmed Qureshi, 47, in connection with the blast on a Brihanmumbai Electric Supply and Transport bus, which left two people dead, the Hindustan Times reported.
Qureshi was produced before a special Prevention of Terrorism Act court in Mumbai on Monday and remanded in police custody till May 14. The accused had left for Muscat on September 30, 2002, months before the blast on December 2. The police are now investigating if Qureshi, allegedly a member of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, was involved in any terrorist activities abroad.
Gujarat Anti-Terrorism Squad Assistant Commissioner of Police KK Patel had visited Aurangabad in search of Sayyed Jabbiuddin Jakhiuddin Ansari, a suspect wanted in the 2006 Gujarat blasts case. However, on May 5, they found Qureshi at his relative’s house and brought him to Mumbai to face arrest.
The prosecution said the accused had opened a firm to carry out SIMI-related work. But Qureshi’s lawyers Tahira Shaikh and Yakub Shaikh said their client was not in India when the blasts happened. “The firm was shut much before the blast. Qureshi, a teacher, left India in September 2002, while the blast took place in December 2002,” the lawyers said.
The lawyers claimed that the Prevention of Terrorism Act review committee had said Qureshi was innocent. However, the court said that the order had been passed before the investigation was complete.
When Qureshi’s advocates argued that the police had not called him for questioning in 16 years, while he was continuously moving between India and Muscat, the police said this was because he was untraceable, DNA reported.
The Mumbai Police had originally listed 29 accused in the case. However, they could trace only 19, before Qureshi. Among them, courts have so far acquitted 17 for lack of evidence. Of the remaining two, one died in Hyderabad and the other died in police custody.