In India, a Legal Group Defends Muslims Accused in Terrorism Cases

By Dore, Bhavya | The Christian Century, March 29, 2017 | Go to article overview

In India, a Legal Group Defends Muslims Accused in Terrorism Cases


Dore, Bhavya, The Christian Century


Eleven years ago, Shahid Nadeem witnessed the blasts that left 37 people dead and more than 100 injured in the small town of Malegaon, 167 miles from Mumbai.

Police rounded up nine Muslim men and charged them with the crime. The men were poor and had no lawyers.

"I saw innocent men taken by the police," Nadeem said. "There was nobody to appear for them."

The experience inspired Nadeem, then an undergraduate, to become a lawyer. He now works for the nonprofit Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra's legal arm, which defends wrongfully accused terrorism suspects.

The Malegaon blast was one of two major bombings in India in 2006 in which Muslim men were arrested or detained, with some charged and later tried.

"People started coming to us," said Gulzar Azmi, the general secretary of the organization's legal group, both Muslims and others. "If there is a poor Hindu, we don't differentiate."

To date, the group has helped get acquittals for more than 100 men, and it currently has about 600 cases. It also challenged the Organized Crime Act, which conferred wide-ranging powers on investigating agencies.

The Jamiat takes cases for free and taps some of the country's best-known criminal lawyers to argue them. The group's funding is drawn entirely from zakat, charitable donations Muslims give as a religious obligation. …

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