Assam activist-MLA Akhil Gogoi walks out of jail after 18 months

NIA court clears last pending case against Raijor Dal leader over alleged participation in protests against CAA

human rights groups, civil rights groups, rallies, protest, CAA, Citizenship (Amendment) Act, US, NPR, NRC, National Population Register, National Register of Citizens
Akhil Gogoi was arrested on December 12, 2019, following an anti-CAA protest, in Jorhat. (Representational image)

Akhil Gogoi, MLA from Sibsagar, Assam, and president of the Raijor Dal, was released on Thursday after spending one-and-a-half years in detention for his alleged role in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.

A National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Thursday cleared Gogoi in the last case pending against him over alleged indulgence in violence in Assam in December 2019, during protests against the CAA.  Last week, the NIA court discharged him in another case.

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“He is free of all charges now and has been pronounced not guilty by the court,” an Indian Express report quoted Gogoi’s lawyer, as saying. “It’s a 120-page judgment. The court said that the witnesses were not found to be worthy in the chargesheet filed,” he added.

It is expected that Akhil Gogoi will visit the home of Sam Stafford, a 17-year-old student who was killed in police firing during the protests.

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“I will first go to visit the parents of Sam Stafford, the first martyr of the anti-CAA protests in Assam. From there, I will go to the office of Krishak Mukti Sangram Samiti and then to Raijor Dal office. Early tomorrow morning, I will leave for my constituency,” he reportedly told media persons soon after his release.

“It was unimaginable that the court would deliver such a free and fair verdict under such pressure from the government. It shows that the judiciary is still independent and the public can have faith in it,” he further said.

Sedition charges

Gogoi was first arrested on December 12, 2019, following an anti-CAA protest, in Jorhat. His case was subsequently shifted to the NIA, where he was booked under the sedition law and provisions of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA). He was charged with being an overground worker of the CPI (Maoist), which is a banned organisation.

While cases were also filed against Gogoi in Sibsagar, Dibrugarh, Gaurisagar, Teok and Jorhat, two —Chandmari and Chabua — were taken over by the NIA.

He had been cleared of the Chabua case in June. For the Chandmari case, the NIA introduced a supplementary chargesheet. His bail plea for the case had been rejected by the Gauhati High Court in January and the Supreme Court in February.

The Indian Express report said Gogoi has for long been agitating for the rights of peasants in Assam. He also participated in protests related to land rights issues, evictions and mega dam.

Gogoi leads the Raijor Dal, a newly formed regional party. When Assembly elections were held recently in Assam, he worn from the Sibsagar seat in Upper Assam, becoming the first jailed leader in the state to win a poll.

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