Srinagar: Zahoor Watali, a prominent Kashmiri businessman arrested by the federal investigation agency NIA in a “terror funding case”, was on Thursday granted bail by the Delhi High Court.
The court held that “there are no reasonable grounds to form an opinion at this stage that the accusations against the appellant under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act or UAPA are prima facie true.”
The bail granted to Watali puts under question the entire “terror funding case” under which many others, including top separatists, have been detained and are languishing in New Delhi’s Tihar Jail for more than a year.
“The court is also not satisfied at this stage that there is prima facie material to show the involvement of the appellant in any criminal conspiracy with the other accused, justifying the accusations for the offences under Section 120-B IPC or Section 121, 121-A, 124-A IPC. The duty of the court at this stage is not to weigh the evidence meticulously but to arrive at a finding on the basis of broad possibilities,” the High Court said.
Watali’s counsel, Shariq Reyaz, termed his bail “an emphatic victory”. “It is not just a normal bail; it has been granted on merit,” he said.
Watali was arrested on August 17, 2017, and was charge-sheeted by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) on January 18 along with Pakistan-based Hafiz Saeed, Syed Salahuddin, seven Kashmiri pro-freedom leaders, and others in its case of alleged “terror funding” in Kashmir Valley.
The accused were charge-sheeted under stringent anti-terror laws for “hatching conspiracy with Saeed and Salahuddin to wage war against India”, that is, to secede Jammu and Kashmir state from the Union of India.
The separatist leaders who were arrested on July 24, 2017, are Altaf Ahmad Shah, Shahid-ul-Islam, Ayaz Akbar, Farooq Ahmad Dar alias Bitta Karate, Nayeem Khan, Raja Mehrajuddin Kalwal and Bashir Ahmad Bhat alias Peer Saifullah.
Another Kashmiri pro-freedom leader Shabir Shah is also languishing in Tihar Jail after he was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate (ED) on July 25, 2017.
Two sons of Salahudin, Syed Shahid and Syed Shakeel, are also in Tihar Jail after they were arrested on same kinds of charges.
After his arrest, Watali had claimed to have played a key role in getting the then Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to attend Narendra Modi’s oath ceremony as Prime Minister in 2014.
Moreover, while being questioned by the NIA over his alleged role in organising funds for militants and resistance leaders in the Valley, Watali reportedly told investigators that he was part of an effort by the Hurriyat to act as mediator between India and Pakistan during the Kargil war.
The offer, made during the peak of the conflict in 1999, was rejected by Pakistan, he claimed.
Meanwhile, the court asked Watali to furnish a personal bail bond of Rs 2 lakh, with two sureties of similar amount.