KOCHI: After key witnesses turned hostile during the ongoing trial in the 2010 case of palm chopping of Prof TJ Joseph, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Court in Kochi granted bail to a suspected conspirator. The bail was granted to Shafeeq, 31, of Odakkali in Ernakulam district. It was on July 4, 2010, that Joseph was attacked by persons allegedly associated with the Popular Front of India (PFI) holding him responsible for blasphemy in setting a question paper at Newman College, Thodupuzha. In the same case, 31 accused persons underwent trial and 13 of them were convicted in 2015. Shafeeq and five others were absconding when the first trial was held and he was arrested in June 2019. The trial of Shafeeq and five others started last year.
Shafeeq is the 30th accused in the case and is allegedly a conspirator in the crime. He also allegedly destroyed the weapon used. Granting him bail, NIA Court judge Anil K Bhaskar said charges against him could not be proved during the ongoing trial. “The prosecution was not able to collect any evidence that the petitioner had destroyed the weapon. As far as his involvement in conspiracy is concerned, the prosecution mainly relied on the statements of two witnesses. Both these witnesses turned hostile during trial and this weakened the case against Shafeeq,” the judge said.
The court observed that 122 witnesses have already been examined so far. The remaining witnesses are police officers and government officials. Similarly, the court also considered Shafeeq’s health issues. “Since none of the remaining witnesses had spoken anything against the petitioner, there is no chance for him to influence and threaten any one of them,” the court observed.