Akash Dalal
Akash Dalal

EDISON, NJ: Another Indian student, that too from Rutgers University. Another case of bias against Indian community. The same court drama but while Dharun Ravi was sentenced to 30 days of jail, another Indian student Akash Dalal, 19, has been held in solitary confinement for nearly two years without trial.

Is this a systematic campaign by someone with high political connections to blame hard-working, sincere Indian students and ruin their academic life. Looking to the past two cases it seems to be so. It is getting clear that Akash is being victimized by the local Jewish majority.

Akash was arrested in March of 2012 for his alleged role in conducting and encouraging attacks on Jewish temples in Bergen County, along with his friend and co-defendant, Anthony M. Graziano. He was accused of having racial motivations in carrying out the attacks, and of instructing Graziano on the proper way to build Molotov cocktails – bottles of alcohol with lit rags stuffed into the opening – and other explosive devices.

Following his arrest, Akash was charged with aggravated arson, bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, and two counts of criminal mischief. He has been in jail since his arrest, awaiting trial.
His bail amount was initially set at $2.5 million, but was lowered by the judge to just $1 million. Akash’s parents were putting together the bail money when they were notified that the amount had been increased to a staggering $4 million, as the FBI uncovered new evidence that Akash was going to buy a gun and murder Bergen County assistant prosecutor Martin Delaney upon release.

During his incarceration, Akash has spent the majority of the time in solitary confinement, meaning that he spends up to 21 hours a day in a cell no larger than 8 ft. by 6 ft. in dimensions The court’s bias can be judged by the fact that while Akash was being kept in isolation with no contact from anyone, how would he be able tell or inform anyone that he was going to purchase a gun and kill someone and that too a person of the stature of a county assistant prosecutor? That was just a cooked up charge, the community strongly feels. His parents, Adarsh and Harsh Dalal, have persisted in trying to clear their son’s name and get him out of prison, but to no avail.

Graziano confessed to prosecutors in July of 2012 that he did attempt to burn down a synagogue, but did not implicate Akash, saying that he learned how to build the arson devices by doing research online. He is facing over a dozen criminal charges, including attempted murder, and is also in jail.

Members of the Indian community led by well-known community leader Peter Kothari has been in the forefront to fight for Akash and ensure that he gets a fair trial and that the proceedings be shifted out of the present court where the Indian community is not sure that justice will be done to Akash. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied and that applies aptly in Akash Dalal case.
Akash’s father has even said that his son’s incarceration is being unfairly used for political purposes, and as an example to other would-be terrorists. It is unclear how many years of jail time Akash will face if convicted of his charges.

The most important, and yet the most neglected aspect of the Akash Dalal case is the fact that the boy has no prior criminal history, and his charges – aggravated arson, bias intimidation, conspiracy to commit aggravated arson, and two counts of criminal were baseless and biased from all angles.

Peter Kothari who is trying to generate an awareness and bring the Indian community in support of Akash Dalal told this correspondent that, “Akash’s plight is the result of a Jewish American majority in the Hackensack area of New Jersey. Because Jewish places were being attacked and Akash was “indirectly” involved, he is now paying the price for rampant racial prejudices that could cost him his shot at a promising future.”

“This is totally controlled by Jewish community, that is the only possible reason for this,” said Peter, adding, “Many other religions have been attacked but the government has not done anything, but a synagogue gets attacked by someone and now Akash gets arrested without having any direct involvement with the crime. It is time for our community to stand up to such injustice and judicial bias.”
While Peter refused to speculate on the motivation of the court and could not speak about any details regarding the trial, he said that he was pushing ahead no-holds-barred to make sure Akash gets a fair trial and that his case is heard justly in court. “Our aim is to get him out of jail and not be biased about it,” said Kothari, adding that “if Akash is guilty, then let them prove him guilty, but just not starting the trial is injustice in itself.”

Peter said he and Akash’s family are most upset about the constantly changing court dates to commence the trial. The trial was originally set to begin in September of last year, but was then delayed to December, and again to this January and given the case history, there’s still no guarantee anything will really happen.

Akash’s attorney, Brian Neary, requested the court to have the case moved to another jurisdiction, saying that because his client was facing charges for conspiring to murder a prosecutor in Bergen County, along with Judges Patrick Roma and Liliana DeAvila-Silebi, the court must recuse itself of the case and pass it on to another county.
Judge Edward Jerejian, however, blocked the motion, saying that threatening judges and lawyers just to get them off of a case is not permissible by law. Jerejian also denied requests by Neary to dismiss the indictments Akash is facing because the prosecutors who presented them in front of the grand jury may have made several mistakes.

Sudhir Vyas