Disgraced Shah re-appears, arrested, jailed (Roundup)

July 25th, 2010 - 6:07 pm ICT by IANS  

Bharatiya Janata Party Gandhinagar/Ahmedabad, July 25 (IANS) On the run for three days, Gujarat’s disgraced former minister Amit Shah was sent to 14-day judicial custody Sunday over an alleged Islamist’s murder, hours after he made a dramatic appearance before the media and surrendered to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
The drama lasted just about five hours from the time Shah walked into the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) office in Ahmedabad at 11.35 a.m. and angrily denied the charges that he was involved in the 2005 killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, an alleged Lakshar-e-Taiba activist.

After making a detailed defence of his case and answering a flurry of questions from journalists, the close aide to Chief Minister Narendra Modi drove to the CBI camp office in the state capital Gandhinagar, about 35 km away, accompanied by a large contingent of supporters.

Once the CBI formally arrested him, the process lasting only a few minutes, he was driven back to Ahmedabad where he was taken to the house of CBI judge A.Y. Dave.

Dave ordered Shah’s judicial custody for 14 days as a large number of BJP activists ringed his house shouting slogans hailing the man who quit as minister Saturday amid a hunt for him.

The CBI, which surprisingly did not demand for Shah’s remand after having summoned him earlier to question him, said it would take his custody if and when required.

Sunday’s developments marked a new turn in the case of Sohrabuddin Sheikh that has led to the arrest and jailing of 15 police officers including three from the Indian Police Service.

All of them are accused of conspiring to kill the man in cold blood. His wife has since disappeared, and the chargesheet against them says that she was murdered and her body burnt to destroy evidence.

Shah’s arrest has seriously strained relations between the BJP and the Congress-led government, with the BJP accusing the latter of using the CBI to target opposition parties.

The BJP also charged the Congress with “vote-bank politics” - an euphemism to mean the Congress was trying to woo Muslims, India’s largest minority.

Earlier Sunday, Gujarat BJP president R.C. Fardu was addressing a press conference at his office when a confident looking Shah suddenly walked in, stunning many of his colleagues and the media alike.

Accused of ordering the killing of Sheikh in a staged gun battle near Ahmedabad in November 2005, Shah insisted: “The accusations against me are fabricated, politically motivated and framed on the behest of the Congress government.”

Shah explained that he ignored the summons to appear in the CBI office Thursday and Friday because he was convinced the 3,000-strong chargesheet against him had been prepared in advance and his questioning was to be a sham.

He said he did not fear arrest. “I have full faith in the judiciary and want to say that this is a conspiracy and misuse of power by the Congress to come in power in Gujarat.”

Shah had sought anticipatory bail Friday but the plea was rejected by the court.

Shah insisted that Rajasthan resident Sohrabuddin was a terrorist, pointing out that the Gujarat Police seized 46 AK-47s, 100 grenades and 100,000 ammunition from a well in his house.

He said while there has been 1,700 “encounters” — suspected fake gun battles — all over India, only those which took place in Gujarat were now being investigated.

The Congress hit back, accusing the BJP of making Shah a scapegoat because his interrogation would lead to Chief Minister Modi.

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