'Even after twelve years in prison, I never lost faith,' says a Kashmiri man who has been cleared of all terror charges
A 44-year-old Srinagar resident who was arrested and imprisoned nearly 12 years ago on terrorism charges and dubbed the “Pepsi Bomber” by the media was finally allowed to return home this week after a lower court in Surat, Gujarat, acquitted him of all charges, including those brought under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).Bashir Ahmed Baba, a resident of Srinagar's Rainawari area, was arrested in Gujarat in 2010 on suspicion of recruiting young men and sending them to Pakistan for terrorist training. During his trial, Baba maintained his innocence, telling the court that he was sent to Gujarat by the company he was working for at the time to receive computer management training.
Baba claimed that he and a colleague were placed in a hostel in Ahmedabad to attend the two-week training session, but that on the seventh day of their arrival, the Gujarat police anti-terrorism squad (ATS) detained the pair.While his colleague, a non-Kashmiri, was eventually let go, the then 32-year-old was questioned and even thrashed for the next two weeks. “I had no idea what my interrogators were discussing. They didn't even tell me what I'd done and kept insisting that I confess,” Baba said.
The ATS finally announced his arrest two weeks later. After a few weeks in police custody, Baba was transferred to judicial custody and lodged in Vadodara Central Jail.“I never gave up hope. I knew I was innocent and that one day I would be released, but I had no idea it would take this long. Nonetheless, I don't have many regrets. This was a test from Allah,” Baba explained.