Monday, November 21, 2011

SIT says Ishrat Jahan killed in staged shootout

AHMEDABAD: Over seven years after college girl Ishrat Jahan and her three friends were killed and passed off as militants, court-appointed investigators have concluded that they were murdered by the state police in a staged shootout.

The conclusion by the Special Investigation Team (SIT) deals a huge setback to the Gujarat government and also vindicates the stand long maintained by activists and families of the dead.

Following the SIT report on the 2004 killings, the Gujarat high court's division bench of Justice Jayant Patel and Justice Abhilasha Kumari Monday ordered a fresh FIR against the accused police officers for the murders under Section 302 that recommends death penalty.

The court-appointed SIT, headed by police officer RR Verma, said that Jahan, a 19-year-old girl from Mumbai, Javed Sheikh alias Pranesh Pillai, Amjad Ali Rana and Zeeshan Johar were killed earlier than the shootout date of June 15, 2004.

They were shot dead on the outskirts of Ahmedabad in a private car. Police claimed that they were linked to the Lashkar-e-Taiba terror outfit and were in the city to assassinate Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi.

A total of 21 policemen, including four Indian Police Service (IPS) officers - then joint commissioner PP Pande, suspended deputy inspector general D.G. Vanzara, then assistant commissioner GL Singhal and assistant commissioner N.K. Amin - were involved in the staged shootout.

The court in its hearing on Monday did not divulge details of the SIT report submitted Friday because it would prejudice and hamper further investigations.

The court is now to decide which agency will conduct further probe into the case. It sought suggestions from petitioners and the state government on whether to entrust the job to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) or the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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