The Karnataka technician, who languished in a jail in Saudi Arabia for 604 days on false charges of posting ‘blasphemous’ messages on social media has finally been set free. Harish Bangera, arrested over a Facebook post regarding the Muslim pilgrimage site of Mecca, flew back to Bengaluru from Dammam in Saudi Arabia on August 17. The release was granted after he was exonerated from the accusation of blasphemy.
Bangera was working as an air-conditioner technician in a company in Saudi Arabia since 2014. He originally hails from Beejady village near Kundapur in Udupi district in the state of Karnataka.
Harish Bangera arrested in Saudi Arabia for ‘blasphemy’
Bangera was arrested in December 2019, after a ‘blasphemous’ post was shared from a Facebook account created in his name. The post was captioned: “Next Ram Temple in Mecca. Be ready for a fight”. A picture of Kaaba in Mecca was also uploaded along with the aforementioned caption.
As soon as the post went viral, a case was registered against Harish and the police in Saudi Arabia had arrested him within a few hours. Bangera’s employers also terminated him from the job.
Back in India, Harish’s wife, Sumana also registered a complaint with the Udipi police. She expressed suspicion in her complaint that her husband might have been subjected to some conspiracy.
Fake Facebook account created by two Muslim youths to implicate the Karnataka man
During the investigation, it was revealed that Bangera’s Facebook profile, which was deleted after the ‘blasphemous’ post went viral, was created on December 20, 2019, a day before the post was shared from that account. It was also revealed that there was another account that Harish had been using for years to post messages about his family and friends. There are also speculations that Bangera’s name could have been used by someone else to create a new Facebook profile to land him in trouble.
In October 2020, Udipi police arrested Abdul Huyez and Abdul Thuyez, brothers from Moodbidri, after the probe revealed that the duo had created a fake Facebook account in Harish’s name to implicate him in false charges of blasphemy.
The police located Huyez by tracing the phone that was used to create the fake Facebook account. The phone belonged to Thuyez and the fake account was created in Dec 2019, and two days later the blasphemous post was uploaded by Huyez in Bangera’s name.
Police revealed that the duo had posted the blasphemous content, impersonating Harish, as an act of revenge. Speaking to the Indian Express, Bangera had revealed that in December 2019, he had once shared a post in favour of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) through his Facebook account while in Saudi Arabia. He was castigated severely for supporting the Act, after which he removed the post.
According to a 2019 report by The New Indian Express, Bangera had shared a video related to the Mangaluru riots. Subsequently, he felt that the video was unwarranted and deleted it from his Facebook account. He also posted a video apologising for his ‘unwarranted’ post. Further, he deactivated his Facebook account.
However, after few hours, a new account was created in his name and incendiary content was posted. While Harish’s original Facebook account had his family picture on the profile, the fake one had his own photograph.
“Harish deactivated his account but after few hours a new account in his name emerged and it was full of hate posts. It is possible that someone may have used the photographs from Harish’s previous account and used the same to spread hate. The original social media account of Harish had his family picture on profile, unlike the fake one which has his photograph. Hence we have complained to the local police seeking their intervention and another complaint was filed with Cyber Police of Udupi,” a family member was quoted by TNIE as saying.
Now, after spending more than 2 years in jail, Harish Bangera reached Bengaluru on August 18 morning. He was received at the airport in Bengaluru by his wife, Sumana and other family members. The family left for Kundapur by road.