The Uttar Pradesh police’s Special Task Force (STF) has charged Kerala journalist Siddiqui Kappan and seven others, who were allegedly members of the Popular Front of India outfit, under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) besides other IPC sections.
Kappan was arrested last October on his way to Uttar Pradesh’s Hathras, which was then in the news for the alleged rape and murder of a Dalit woman.
He and others were accused of sedition, criminal conspiracy, and other offences. Apart from IPC sections pertaining to these offences, they’ve also been charged under sections 17 and 18 of UAPA (related to raising funds for terror acts) and various sections of IT Act.
The 5,000-page chargesheet against them was filed in the court on Saturday. The defence counsel said they will consider moving the high court after going through it. The court has fixed next hearing on May 1.
Besides Kappan, other accused include Campus Front of India’s national general secretary KA Rauf Sherif, CFI national treasurer Atikur Rahman, Delhi CFI general secretary Masud Ahmed, CFI and PFI member Mohammed Alam, Anshad Badruddin, Firoz Khan, and Danish.
Kappan along with Rahman, Masud Ahmed and Alam, was arrested last October while they were heading to Hathras where a 19-year old Dalit woman had allegedly been gang-raped and murdered. The FIR claimed they were going to Hathras with an intention “to breach the peace” as part of a “conspiracy”.
The Enforcement Directorate had in February filed its first charge-sheet against the PFI members on money laundering charges, claiming they wanted to “incite communal riots and spread terror” in the aftermath of the Hathras gang rape case.
The district counsel said that Anshad Badruddin and Firoz Khan are lodged in Lucknow jail after being arrested for allegedly plotting to execute a series of blasts in Lucknow and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh.
The defence counsel claimed that the accused have been falsely implicated in the case. He alleged the accused who were lodged in Mathura jail were denied food for 24 hours. The UP government has been demanding a ban on PFI, alleging its involvement in fuelling violence.
The Supreme Court had in February granted bail to Kappan to visit his ailing mother for five days, but with riders that he shall not give any interview to media, including social media.
(With inputs from agencies)