A 44-year-old Srinagar resident, Bashir Ahmad Baba, returned home on June 23, after spending 11 years in jail on terrorism charges. Bashir branded as the “Pepsi Bomber” by a section of the media. A lower court in Surat, Gujarat, acquitted him of all charges, including under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Bashir was detained in Gujarat back in 2010 on accusations of recruiting Muslim youths to send them to Pakistan for training and spread terrorist activities in India.
On June 19, a court in Gujarat’s Vadodara held that the prosecution had failed to prove the charges and furnish evidence against Baba.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Bashir said he knew that he was innocent and never lost hope of being acquitted. “I knew I would be released honorably one day,” he said. His father died in 2017, three years after being diagnosed with colon cancer.
According to report, Bashir use to work with a non-government organisation that conducted medical camps, especially for children with cleft lip.
Bashir had come to Gujarat from Srinagar in February 2010 for a training with the Gujarat Cleft & Craniofacial Research Institute in Ahmedabad. He was arrested on March 13 from Anand and was booked under UAPA and for criminal conspiracy to spread terrorism as a member of a banned Hizb-ul-Mujahideen.
Bashir had completed his Masters in Urdu from Indira Gandhi National Open University in 2009 and then qualified for a 15-day training program in Gujrat Ahmedabad in March 2010 by Maya Foundation- a German NGO running a project for surgical treatment of cleft lip in children in rural areas.
He was booked under an FIR under section 120 (B) of IPC, and sections 16, 17, 18, 20 of the Unlawful Activity (Prevention) Act (UAPA) in 2010.