A man identified as VJ Sebastian Francis from Kerala has approached the Supreme Court for directions on the extradition of his daughter Sonia Sabastian alias Ayisha and his 7-year-old granddaughter. They are currently lodged in a jail in Afghanistan. Ayisha had left India to join the terrorist group ISIS.
In his petition, Francis said that the authorities should take necessary action to extradite his daughter and granddaughter. He said, “Internationally, a lenient approach has been taken against the women foreign terrorist fighters…owing to the stand taken by the countries that women only played ancillary roles and therefore could not pose any significant threat to national security.”
He further claimed that the issue was urgent as the political and administrative scene in Afghanistan would change substantially after the exit of US troops. Blaming the Centre for not facilitating the extradition, he alleged that the government’s stand was illegal and unconstitutional. He also alleged it was a violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
Reportedly, When Ayisha left India to join ISIS, a case under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act was filed against her. In 2017, Interpol also issued a Red Corner notice against her. After she reached Afghanistan, her husband was killed in the war, and she had to surrender to Afghan forces in November 2019 along with other women.
Francis added in a plea that in March 2020, an interview was published on YouTube titled ‘Khorasan Files: The journey of Indian Islamic State Widows‘ in which she allegedly made a statement that she regretted the decision to join ISIS and wanted to return to India and face a fair trial before the court. He said since the interview, there had been no information about the whereabouts of Ayisha and her daughter. “Since the defeat of the ISIS in Afghanistan, the Taliban has been seeking immediate withdrawal of American forces from its soil… It is anticipated that subsequent to the withdrawal of the American forces, the Taliban and Islamic republic of Afghanistan may enter into a war, in which case the foreign terrorist fighters could be hanged to death,” he added.
Ayisha was born a Catholic Christian who later entered into a relationship with one Abdulla Abdul Rashid alias Rishi during the time she was studying for engineering. She got influenced by the Islamic discourse by the time she moved to Bengaluru to pursue MBA. Later she converted to Islam but did not disclose the information to her parents. Her relationship with Rashid came to light in 2010 when they found her performing Namaz.
When they opposed her actions, she married Rashid. Later, they came under the influence of ISIS and left India to join the terrorist organization. They were stationed at Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. During military operations by the Afghan forces in 2019, Rashid died.
In the application, Francis mentioned that an extradition treaty was signed with Afghanistan in 2016, and the instruments of ratification for the said treaty were exchanged at Kabul in November 2019. “By virtue of the extradition treaty, each contracting state has agreed to extradite any person convicted or accused of an offence committed within the territory of one State but is found in the territory of another State,” the petition read.
Govt of India had denied return of four Kerala based women who joined ISIS
The government of India had announced that it would not allow the return of four Kerala based women who had joined ISIS including Ayisha. Bindu Sampath, the mother of ISIS terrorist Nimisha Fathima said, “I’ve heard that Prime Minister Narendra Modi is a very kind-hearted person. I have full faith in him.” Bindu lamented that she had not received any communication from the Indian government so far. “But I am very positive because there will be other views also in the government. I am banking on that. I believe in God. I am sure that God will create a situation for her return,” she had opined.
Sonia Sebastian became Ayisha, went to join ISIS with her husband Abdullah Rashid
According to the charge sheet filed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in 2017, Sebastian had left India in 2016 to join the ISKP in Afghanistan along with a group of 21 men and women from Kerala. They had crossed over to Afghanistan on foot from Iran. The NIA said Sebastian, from Kasargod in Kerala, left India on May 31, 2016, with her husband, Abdul Rashid Abdulla, from Mumbai airport.
Apart from Sonia alias Ayisha, three other Kerala women, Merrin Jacob alias Mariyam, Nimisha alias Fathima, and another woman named Raffaela, are currently lodged in various Afghan prisons after the fall of ISIS.