The New Jersey-based Indian community is urging a speedy trial or release on bail of a 21-year-old youth accused of taking part in the attacks on Jewish temples, reports Bhargavi Kulkarni for News India Times.
Aakash Dalal, a Lodi, N.J. resident and a former Rutgers University student, was arrested along with Anthony M. Graziano in March 2012 for his alleged role in conducting and abetting attacks on Jewish temples in New Jersey’s Bergen County. The attacks, which took place between December 2011 and January 2012, included the attempted murder of Rabbi Neil Schuman, the firebombing of Temple Beth El Rutherford and Temple Beth El Hackensack.
Prosecutors are treating Dalal as a terrorist, community members say. Dalal, like his co-defendant, has pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated arson, bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, and two counts of criminal mischief. If convicted, each faces life imprisonment.
Dalal’s parents – Adarsh and Harsha Dalal – have been mobilizing the Edison-based Indian community. With the support of some activists, they organized a meeting on February 26 to discuss options to build pressure in support of their demands for a fair and speedy trial of their son and reduction of bail to a reasonable amount. Originally set at $2.5 million, bail was raised to $4 million after prosecutors said Dalal had conspired to plan the murder of an assistant prosecutor on the case. Supporters allege that he has been held in solitary confinement for the past two years and spends 21 hours a day in an 8×6 cell.
Speaking to News India Times, Adarsh Dalal said his son’s civil rights are being violated, as he is being held indefinitely in solitary confinement. “This is the worst, trying time,” he said, adding that the he and wife take turns to go meet their only child on Wednesdays and Sundays. Unable to share details of the case according to his lawyer’s advice, Adarsh Dalal expressed his hopes on the community coming together in large numbers and pressure the court to expedite his son’s trial.
News India Times says that prosecutors have suggested that Dalal received training in Yemen and North Korea.
Adarsh Dalal denied that his son was in any way involved in the case, and that said Aakash Dalal had been in New Hampshire working on Ron Paul’s presidential bid. His boarding passes to and from New Hampshire have been considered insufficient evidence.
A video presentation at the meeting portrayed Dalal as a brilliant student who graduated from Lodi High School in Bergen County with a perfect GPA and scoring 2280/2400 on his SATs. Various options, including holding rallies, signing petitions, and writing letters to elected officials were discussed to lobby support for the case.
Many criticized the Indian-American community for its lack of participation in such causes and highlighted the need to raise more awareness. “Number is the game here,” Pradip “Peter” Kothari, one of the organizers of the meeting, told News India Times. “Ours is a passive community,” he noted, adding that two years have already passed (since the case was filed against Dalal), and the time for action is “now.”