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BENGALURU/UDUPI: The man who allegedly facilitated the suspected killers of journalist Gauri Lankesh to practise firing at his land in Belagavi and provided other logistic support to the murder has been arrested by the Special Investigation Team (SIT).
He is the 12th man to be arrested in the case. He is also suspected to have helped the killers escape soon after committing the murder.
Bharat Kurne alias Tamatar (37), a resident of Sambhaji Galli in Belagavi who runs a dhaba and also sells vegetables, is the arrested person. He is said to be the member of a pro-Hindu outfit.
He was picked up by a SIT team from Belagavi on Wednesday and was brought to the city.
He was formally arrested on Thursday and was produced before the First Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate (ACMM) court.
The SIT sought his police custody for 14 days but the magistrate remanded him in judicial custody and directed the SIT to seek his police custody from the III ACMM court, which regularly hears the case.
The SIT, in its remand application, stated that the Kurne had a room at Shastri Nagar in Belagavi, where the other accused in the case held conspiracy meetings there.
“Kurne also actively participated in the meetings. He has a three-acre land at a remote location in a forest area in Khanapur. There, the accused were trained in firing air guns and other firearms. There was no mobile phone network in the remote area and the accused stayed there during the night in a small room constructed in the land. Kurne had also arranged vehicles from his room in Belagavi to his land in the forest to facilitate the other accused to commute easily,” the remand application stated.
Two more picked up
The SIT took two men associated with Hindu Jagarana Vedike from Padubidri area in Udupi district into their custody on Thursday.
Sources said SIT sleuths interrogated them and shifted them to the jurisdictional Padubidri police station before shifting them to Bengaluru.
The local police claimed they were not informed about the detention earlier and only their support was sought around 7 am on Thursday. The first suspectSandesh Shetty (32) is a resident of Padebettu and the other Yuvaraj (31) is a resident of Kanchinadka near Padubidri.
“Yuvaraj, when he was in Belthangady, was in contact with Rajesh D Bangera, the 10th person arrested. The two were participating in the programmes organised by right-wing organisations. Sandesh was picked up from the milk dairy where he worked, and Yuvaraj from his home around 8 am. There were two personnel from the SIT to detain the duo,” a source said.
“Both the youths are bachelors. Yuvaraj, who did centering work, had shifted from Belthangady to Kanchinadka near Padubidri about 10 years ago. He was staying with his parents. Sandesh's father had expired some years back while his brother works in Mumbai. He has two sisters. They both were associated with Hindu Jagarana Vedike. Yuvaraj had also formed Bhagavathi Trust, through which he was said to be helping the poor people by giving them financial aid. Sandesh and Yuvaraj were in good contact,” the source added.
Kurne was in B’luru on the day of murder
Sources in SIT said that Kurne’s name was revealed by suspected shooter Parashuram Waghmare and biker Ganesh Miskin.
“Waghmare had confessed that he was trained at Khanapura forests and was staying in a room in Belagavi during that period. He had revealed that the man who gave shelter to them in Belagavi was also staying with him in the house in Kumbalgodu. Miskin also gave the same description about Kurne,” an official said.
Kurne is believed to be the driver of a vehicle that ferried Waghmare and Miskin after killing Gauri Lankesh.
“Kurne was in direct contact with Kale from several years. Firing practice had continued even after Gauri’s murder indicating that they were preparing to kill other progressive thinkers,” the official said.