Following is an interview of Shahid Azmi published in the Afternoon Dispatch & Courier, a local evening newspaper of Mumbai, on 12th October 2006. Since it’s not available online and it is the most well articulated and straightforward interview of Shahid, we are reproducing it. We are thankful to Shahid’s mother, Rehana Azmi for making this available to us. –IR Team
He was convicted in a case regarding Kashmir’s separation movement and had to spend five years in Tihar jail. During the prosecution period he completed his intermediate and graduation and coming out of jail, he pursued law as a career and now he is fighting the cases of the blast accused of Gorakhpur, Mulund, gateway and 7/11.
At 27, Shahid Azmi’s career in law is just three years old, but using his own example, he is determined to safeguard the accused’s rights. Now he is in the news again as he has taken up cases of the 7/11 blast accused despite receiving warnings from a political party. Excerpts from an interview with him…
By Kaptan Mali,
There was an appeal and threats from political parties not to protect the 7/11 blast accused, don’t you have any fear in this regard?
Being a lawyer, it is my duty to protect any individual in the court of the law who approaches me to defend him. Why should there be any fear when I am rendering my duty?
There are plenty of issues and cases which a lawyer can take but why did you take the case of the 7/11 blast accused in the face of public outrage against them?
There is an adverse public opinion only because people are largely unaware how counter terrorism and counter insurgency agencies work. Their entire operation is mostly a bunch of exaggeration, deceit and propaganda serving their political masters and destroying their political opponents. The current trend of Muslim militancy is more than a crime and political phenomenon. In my opinion, one must be treated as innocent until or unless proven guilty by the court.
The 1993 blasts’ case is also going on and everywhere defence lawyers are facing threat, don’t you feel demotivated?
Crime when proved in the court of law in accordance with the law is punished. It can deter no lawyer just because he lost a case. Like judges and prosecutors, what defence lawyers do is to ensure justice with fairness.
What are your feelings towards the victims of the blasts?
I am pained, the heart bleeds, when I hear what they have endured. But in spite of all that, it will never be easy for me to see an innocent being sent behind bars or to the gallows only because the crime alleged was a bomb blast.
The police is saying that they have solid evidence against all the accused so how will you protect them?
After every major incident like 7/11 the police in a face saving exercise comes up with bombastic claims of having unravelled the mystery with clinching evidence and very often. We have seen this fail and falter.
At such an early age you are fighting a difficult case. Don’t you think it is a risky start to your career?
In the journey of justice age doesn’t matter, what matters is the stand you have taken for the defenceless at a time when their voices were lost in the wilderness.
You were also related to the SIMI so what are your reactions and feelings about the organisation now?
They have become the target of the government as that always used to oppose the policies of the government. Earlier university students used to be the leaders of SIMI but later it was headed by the Madrassa people and this change of radicalism marked the difference.
It is also alleged that most of the accused are members of SIMI…
It was alleged at the time of the Ghatkopar blasts also that SIMI was involved but later what happened? As per the policies of the SIMI only those who are below the age of 30 can be made members. I do not deny that some might be ex-members of the SIMI.
Also read: Who was Shahid Azmi?