SRINAGAR: A Srinagar youth, who was arrested by Kolkata police in an arms case and acquitted earlier this month by the West Bengal High Court, was set free on Tuesday after remaining incarcerated for nearly 16 years on fabricated charges.

The acquittal comes days after four persons from Jammu and Kashmir were released by Rajasthan court after serving 24 years in prison on fabricated charges of terrorism.

The latest victim, Sheikh Imran, now 31, was arrested along with five other persons, including another Srinagar youth, for allegedly smuggling 25485 rounds of AK-47 ammunition into Kolkata in September 2003.

All the victims were handed out life imprisonment by a lower court in Kolkata in 2013.

“He was just 15 years old and had appeared in class 10 board exam. We had an acquaintance in Kolkata and he wanted to go there on a holiday after writing his papers,” Sheikh Muzamil, Imran’s brother, told The Citizen.

After returning from Kolkata, a local team of J&K Police nabbed him from his residence in Karfali Mohalla of Srinagar residence and he was booked by Kolkata Police along with five others in the arms haul case.

“He was a minor at the time of his arrest but he was treated as an adult. We pleaded before the investigators and judiciary that he was innocent but they didn’t listen. His only crime was that he was a Kashmiri,” Sheikh Muzamil said.

“It was a politically motivated decision to frame Kashmiri youth in false cases. 16 prime years of his life have been wasted in jail. Who will compensate him for that loss,” Muzamil added.

The case continued for nearly ten years in a local Kolkata court during which the family of Imran had to undergo a lot of hardships. “In 2013, the court awarded them life sentence. The verdict came as a shock but we didn’t give up,” Muzamil said.

Among the six convicted were Syed Abid Imam who was arrested in Malda in December 2003, Sirush Momin who was arrested in Meghalaya, Moidul Hussain and Sukoor Ali who were nabbed in Assam and Farhat Mohammad. All six were charged under the arms act.

The family’s pursuit of justice finally bore fruit on July 4 when the West Bengal High Court struck down the judgement of the lower court, declared them innocent and ordered their release.

“No family should undergo what we have suffered in these years. But our fight for justice has not ended yet. We want strict punishment for the agencies who framed him in a false case. How will they return the 16 prime years of his life that he spent in jail?” Muzamil said.

(Photos by BASIT ZARGAR for