Key evidence in Bhima-Koregaon case planted by hackers: Forensic report

Incriminating emails were planted in Surendra Gadling's computer, says Arsenal Consulting; Stan Swamy, other accused had maintained evidence was fabricated

Bhima-Koregaon case accused Surendra Gadling's computer is thought to have been compromised with certain emails about two years ahead of his arrest.

Barely 24 hours after the death of tribal activist Stan Swamy, an American forensic agency report has claimed that some key evidence in the Bhima Koregaon case — in which he was an accused — was planted.

Incriminating evidence was planted in the computer of Surendra Gadling, who was also arrested under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) for alleged links to the CPI(Maoist) group, a banned outfit, said the report by of Boston-based Arsenal Consulting, as quoted by NDTV. This has raised the possibility that Swamy’s computer, whose contents were used as evidence against him, was also compromised.

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Evidence-tampering

Gadling’s computer was thought to have been compromised with certain emails about two years ahead of his arrest, the NDTV report said.

Also read: Tribal rights activist Stan Swamy, arrested in Elgaar Parishad case, dies

The June 20201 Arsenal report examined the hard drive of Gadling, a 53-year-old Dalit activist, and came up with proof of plants in the computer, it added. “It should be noted that this is one of the most serious cases involving evidence-tampering that Arsenal has ever encountered,” it said.

NDTV said Arsenal, as claimed on its website, has worked on various high-profile cases including the Boston Marathon bombing.

Apart from Gadling and Swamy, an 84-year-old Jesuit priest who died in hospital, 16 people were accused in the Bhima-Koregaon case. All of them including Swamy had maintained — both to the public and media, and in their bail applications — that evidence had been fabricated against them to suggest they had links with Maoist guerrillas and had triggered riots.

Bhima-Koregaon riots

In the Bhima-Koregaon riots in Maharashtra three years ago, lakhs of Dalits had gathered to commemorate a historic battle in which Dalits had defeated an upper caste army. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had said the 16 activists including Swamy had instigated the riots.

They were all arrested under the UAPA, which allows law enforcement agencies to detain the accused for a prolonged time for questioning. The charges against them included plotting to assassinate the Prime Minister.

Yet another forensic report

NDTV said that the Washington Post had, earlier this year, reported on a similar document from the Arsenal. It had alleged that an unidentified hacker had planted over 30 documents in the computer of Rona Wilson, another of the accused.

The report said Gadling’s system was compromised for over 20 months between February 2016 and November 2017. Around 14 incriminating letters planted in the computer were from the same attacker who targeted Wilson’s system and planted 30 files there, it added.

Swami suffered from Parkinson’s disease apart from various other health conditions. Recently, he tested positive for COVID, too. In May, he was hospitalised. The news of his death was broken by attending doctors in court, where his hearing for bail was underway, said NDTV.

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