On Friday, a Special Court in Mumbai operating under the National Investigation Agency (NIA) Act sentenced two Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) operatives to eight years rigorous imprisonment after they pleaded guilty to violations of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act.

The two accused, Mohsin Sayyed and Rizwan Ahmed, had been imprisoned since 2016, and Special Judge AT Wankhede stated that the time already served in prison would be factored into the sentence. Each convict was also fined $35,000 by the Court.

Sayyed and Ahmed were accused of attempting to radicalize Muslim youths in order for them to join ISIS. In 2015, a case was filed against them, and the NIA filed its charge sheet in 2016. They were charged with violating UAPA Sections 18 (conspiracy), 20, 38, and 39 (member of a terrorist organisation), as well as Indian Penal Code Section 120B (criminal conspiracy).

The trial had begun, and so far, approximately 35 witnesses had been cross-examined against the two, with the charge sheet listing over 200 names. Given the slow pace of the trial, the two filed an application with the special court for permission to plead guilty.

According to their current plea, nothing in the law prevents “an accused from pleading guilty at any subsequent stage of the trial after the framing of charges, but the court must act with caution and circumspection before accepting and acting on the plea of guilt, and the plea must be clear, unambiguous, and unqualified, and the court must be satisfied that the accused has understood the nature of the allegations made against him and admits them.”

The plea also states that the accused “want to reintegrate into society and rehabilitate themselves.” According to the plea, “the accused have clean antecedents and their behavior in jail was satisfactory.” “The accused are pleading guilty voluntarily, without any pressure, threat, coercion, inducement, or undue influence, and they are aware of the consequences,” the statement reads.

According to the two accused’s plea, they “had become wayward for a very short period of time because they were lured by some sentimental material available on social media, specifically on YouTube.”

It adds that the accused are also “remorseful for the acts alleged against them, and undertake not to engage in similar acts and activities in the future, according to the statement. They are showing signs of wanting to reform.”

Furthermore, the plea states that the accused were “merely involved in the propagation of a banned terrorist organisation” but were never involved in any form of violence.

Mohsin Sayyed stated in his plea that he comes from a very poor family and must care of his wife, two children, and ailing parents. “He has been imprisoned for approximately six years, and further punishment would be extremely detrimental to his wife, elderly parents, and minor children. The accused is the sole earner in his family”

Rizwan Ahmad, on the other hand, stated that he was a teenager at the time of the crime and was unaware of the gravity of the offence. Later, while in custody, he realized his mistakes, he claimed.

The NIA, represented by special public prosecutor Prakash Shetty, stated that the agency does not object to the pleas entered by the accused.

Initially, the case was being investigated by the Maharashtra Anti-Terrorism Squad but was later transferred to the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

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