On Afzal Guru, this is what the Supreme Court had said

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New Delhi, Feb 26: Union Minister Venkaiah Naidu in Parliament attacked US Ambassador Richard Varma who had made a remark on free speech.

Varma was making these comments in the view of JNU students being probed for speaking out on the Afzal Guru issue. Naidu countered it by asking will the US tolerate anyone celebrating the martyrdom of Osama Bin Laden on any of their campuses.

Afzal Guru

Let us understand the Afzal Guru issue here. He was hanged after being convicted by the Supreme Court. Those alleging that he got a raw deal say that he was not provided legal aid as he could not afford it. Further, the allegation also is that he had been convicted based on circumstantial evidence. In this context it would be interesting to reproduce the Supreme Court verdict, which upheld the conviction of Afzal Guru before sending him to the gallows.

On legal aid:

The Supreme Court said that it found "no substance in the contention that he was not given legal aid. The trial judge had done his best to help Afzal with legal aid, and the counsel who defended him was not inexperienced, ineffective, or casual in his job.

The Bench, however, agreed that Afzal Guru was without an advocate at the time of his arrest until May 17 2002. The Bench however added that there were no proceedings besides the extending of remand and furnishing of documents which had taken place during this period.

Questions on Afzal Guru's confession:

As per the confession report obtained by the Delhi police Afzal was motivated to join the jihad for Kashmir's liberation by one Tariq of Anantnag, who also introduced him to proclaimed offender Ghazibaba. He was appraised about the mission to carry out attacks on institutions like Parliament and embassies, and asked him to find a safe hideout for the 'fidayeens' in Delhi.

Afzal came to Delhi with Mohammed, one of the Jaish-e-Mohammad fidayeen, and on the night of December 12, he and co-accused Shaukat Guru and SAR Geelani visited the five Pakistani terrorists at their hideout. Mohammed told them about the plan to attack Parliament the following day, and gave Afzal Rs 10 lakh for Shaukat, Geelani and him, and a laptop to deliver to Ghazibaba.

Afzal and Mohammed remained in touch, and on December 13, Afzal got a call on his mobile phone 98114-89429 from Mohammed's phone 98106-93456 asking him to watch TV and inform him about the presence of VVIPs at Parliament House.

The court had said that a delay by Afzal in refuting and retracting the confession could not in itself impart credibility to the confession. The Bench rejected the argument that inconsistencies in the grounds for Afzal to retract could give rise to "an inference that the confessional statement was true and voluntary".

The court's conclusion:

The court said that as per the circumstantial evidence on record, he knew the dead terrorists and identified their bodies. He was in frequent telephonic contact with the terrorist Mohammed, including three calls that the latter made to him minutes before the attack; the various locations used by the fidayeen in Delhi before the attacks; the various purchases made by them, including chemicals, dry fruit, a Yamaha motorcycle and mobile phones; and the laptop that was found in Afzal's custody.

The court concluded that these circumstances clearly established Afzal's association with the terrorists "in almost every act done by them in order to achieve the objective of attacking the Parliament House". "Short of participating in the actual attack," Afzal, did everything to set in motion the diabolic mission.

"The gravity of the crime... is something which cannot be described in words. The incident, which resulted in heavy casualties, had shaken the entire nation and the collective conscience of the society will only be satisfied if the capital punishment is awarded to the offender. The challenge to the unity, integrity and sovereignty of India... can only be compensated by giving the maximum punishment... The appellant, who is a surrendered militant and who was bent upon repeating the acts of treason against the nation, is a menace to the society and his life should become extinct. Accordingly, we uphold the death sentence."

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