Assam MLA Akhil Gogoi freed after acquittal in CAA protests case (Lead)


Guwahati, July 1 (IANS) After over one and a half years in jail, Assam MLA and activist Akhil Gogoi was freed as a special NIA court on Thursday acquitted him in the second of the two cases filed against him in connection with the anti-Citizenship (Amendment) Act protests in December 2019.

Hundreds of his supporters, amid heavy deployment of security forces, greeted Gogoi as he walked out of the Gauhati Medical College and Hospital where he was being treated for numerous illnesses, after the special NIA court sent the release order to the Guwahati Central Jail.

“Truth has finally succeeded. The court upheld the democratic rights albeit all kinds of attempts were tried to keep me behind the bars,” Gogoi, who is also the President of Raijor Dal, told media after his release.

Gogoi immediately visited the parents of “first CAA martyr” Sam Stafford at their residence in Hatigaon area of the city.

Earlier on Thursday, Special NIA judge Pranjal Das acquitted him and his three associates — Dharjya Kowar, Manas Konwar and Bitu Sonowal — in the second of the two cases filed against him in connection with the anti-CAA agitation in December 2019.

Gogoi and his three associates were accused in two cases under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. They were cleared of all charges in the first case last week.

Welcoming the acquittal, Raijor Dal’s Working President Bhasco de Saikia said the court’s verdict has exposed the BJP government’s attempts to target the party chief without any basis.

Gogoi, 46, was elected from eastern Assam’s Sibsagar seat in the March-April Assembly polls, though being in jail since December 2019, for allegedly fomenting violence during the anti-CAA agitations.

The National Investigation Agency had taken up the cases against him and his associates on the basis of two FIRs registered at the Chandmari police station in Guwahati and Chabua police stations in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district.

Gogoi’s lawyer Rahul Sensowa told the media that the three others were also discharged on Thursday. All the three activists are, however, already out on bail.

Gogoi and his associates werecharged with criminal conspiracy, sedition, promoting enmity between groups on grounds such as religion, race and language, assertions against national integrity and support to a terrorist organization including Maoist link.

The NIA court had last week granted two days’ parole to Gogoi to meet members of his family in Guwahati and eastern Assam’s Jorhat. His 84-year-old mother Priyoda Gogoi is also ailing.

Gogoi is the first lawmaker in Assam to win an election from jail. His mother, son Nasiketa and prominent activists of the country, including Medha Patkar, Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey, several students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University and intellectuals from different parts of the country, had come to Sibsagar to campaign for him.


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