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2008 Malegaon blast case: Ex-Army officer becomes 34th witness to turn hostile

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Mumbai: A former Army captain, a witness in the 2008 Malegaon blast case who had accused the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad (ATS) officials of threatening him to give a statement before a magistrate, on Wednesday turned hostile before a special NIA court here.

He became the 34th prosecution witness to be declared hostile in the case in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP from Bhopal, Pragya Singh Thakur, is one of the key accused.

This witness had filed a complaint with the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission alleging that the state ATS officials threatened him to give a statement before a magistrate.

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The witness had earlier given a statement to the National Investigation Agency (NIA) that when he first met Lieutenant Colonel Prasad Purohit in 2006, the latter who is one of the accused in the case, had asked the captain to work with him in the Abhinav Bharat organisation.

Later that year, he was invited to a meeting at Purohit’s house in Pune. Purohit and an unidentified person had attended the meeting, where there was discussion on the work of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) , the witness had told the NIA.

The discussion in the meeting was that the RSS should do “aggressive and nationalistic work” as it was not doing so and Abhinav Bharat can do that, he had told the probe agency.

The witness had also told the NIA that in 2008, he had attended a meeting on the participation of Abhinav Bharat in politics.

He also took part in a training session arranged by Purohit at Pachmarhi in Madhya Pradesh in 2008. About 20 youths from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Karnataka attended the camp. Other accused Sameer Kulkarni and Sudhakar Chaturvedi were also present there, the witness had told the probe agency.

He said the ATS (which probed the case earlier) at Nashik questioned him about his association with Purohit. They later took him to Mumbai and threatened him to give confession before the magistrate. After that, he had filed a complaint against the ATS officials at the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission in 2009.

However, during his deposition before the special NIA court judge A K Lahoti on Wednesday, the witness denied giving any statement. The court then declared him hostile.

Six people were killed and more than 100 injured on September 29, 2008, when an explosive device strapped to a motorcycle went off near a mosque in Malegaon town in north Maharashtra, some 200 km from Mumbai.

The ATS probed the case initially before the National Investigation Agency took over. A total of seven accused including Thakur and Colonel Prasad Purohit are facing trial in the case.

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( With inputs from www.siasat.com )

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