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Former JNU student Umar Khalid questioned in Delhi riots case, cellphone seized

Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student Umar Khalid was questioned on Friday in connection with a case related to the north-east Delhi riots, in which he and at least eight others have been booked under the Unlawful Activity Prevention Act (UAPA), and charged with sedition, murder, attempt to murder and rioting.

Khalid’s cellphone was also seized, police said Saturday. The case is being probed by the Delhi Police special cell, which is probing “a larger conspiracy angle” behind the riots that took place in February. Friday was the first time that the former JNU student was questioned for his alleged role in the riots that left 53 dead over 400 injured.

Joint commissioner of police (special cell) Neeraj Thakur confirmed that Khalid was questioned by his team at their office on Friday and that his cellphone was seized for investigation. Thakur, however, refused to share further details.

A special cell officer, who did not want to be identified, said, “Khalid was questioned for nearly three hours. He was questioned regarding the purported provocative speeches he had allegedly delivered at two different places before the visit of US President Donald Trump in February. Khalid had allegedly appealed to the public to come out on streets and block the roads during Trump’s visit,” the officer said.

More than eight people, including suspended Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) councillor Tahir Hussain, Jamia student Meeran Haider, Jamia Coordination Committee’s media coordinator Safoora Zargar, and Pinjra Tod activists Natasha Narwal and Devangana Kalita, have been arrested under the stringent UAPA on charges of planning and executing the north-east Delhi riots.

The counsels for the arrested persons have accused Delhi Police of launching a witch hunt against their clients, only because they were part of the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.

According to the special cell submissions before the court, Khalid along with the other accused had hatched a conspiracy to orchestrate the riots just before the Trump visit on February 24 and 25. In at least four charge sheets, police have said Khalid had met councillor Hussain and Khalid Saifi, an activist, on January 8 at the Shaheen Bagh sit-in protest site to allegedly plan the riots.

When contacted Tridip Pais, counsel for Khalid, said he did not want to comment on the case developments.

Khalid was earlier arrested in February 2016 for allegedly shouting anti-India slogans on the JNU campus along with former student union president Kanhaiya Kumar and others. They were charged with sedition. They had denied the charges and accused the police of using doctored videos to build a case against them. The case is being heard by a city court.

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