In­dia judge frees mosque blast ac­cused and re­signs

7 peo­ple were killed, 58 hurt in 2007 Hy­der­abad’s Makkah Masjid at­tack

Gulf News - - Front Page - BY MO­HAMMED SID­DIQUE Cor­re­spon­dent

In a dra­matic de­vel­op­ment, the judge of the spe­cial Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency court in the south In­dian city of Hy­der­abad has re­signed hours af­ter de­liv­er­ing his ver­dict in the deadly Makkah Masjid blast case.

In a move which has sparked in­tense spec­u­la­tion in le­gal quar­ters, Ravin­der Reddy sent his res­ig­na­tion let­ter to the Chief Jus­tice of Hy­der­abad High Court. His move sur­prised le­gal and po­lit­i­cal cir­cles as it came a few hours af­ter he ac­quit­ted Swami Asee­m­anand and four oth­ers in the sen­sa­tional case for lack of ev­i­dence.

The ac­cused in the blast case al­legedly be­longed to the right wing Hindu out­fits. “If there were other rea­sons, I don’t know why he chose this day to do it,” said a se­nior high court lawyer who wanted to be anony­mous.

Hy­der­abad Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment Asadud­din Owaisi ex­pressed his sur­prise. “Very in­trigu­ing and I am sur­prised with the Lord­ship’s de­ci­sion,” he tweeted. Nine peo­ple were killed and 58 in­jured when a blast ripped through the his­toric mosque dur­ing Fri­day prayers on May 18, 2007.

Aspe­cial NIA court in Hy­der­abad yes­ter­day ac­quit­ted five ac­cused in the Makkah Masjid bomb blast case, al­most 11 years af­ter an im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vice ripped through a Fri­day con­gre­ga­tion.

The at­tack on the Hy­der­abad mosque killed nine peo­ple and in­jured 58 oth­ers. The ac­cused who were ac­quit­ted by the court in­clude Naba Ku­mar Sir­car, alias Swami Asee­m­anand, a for­mer mem­ber of the Rashtriya Swayam­se­vak Sang (RSS) in Gu­jarat turned pa­tron of a new right wing group, Ab­hi­nav Bharat, and other mem­bers of hardline Hindu groups.

‘Failed to prove guilt’

De­liv­er­ing the judge­ment in a packed court­room, the judge said the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency (NIA) had failed in prov­ing the guilt of the ac­cused.

“The judge ob­served that not a sin­gle al­le­ga­tion lev­elled by the pros­e­cu­tion could be proved and hence he de­clared all the ac­cused ac­quit­ted,” said J.P. Sharma, the defence coun­sel.

A bomb had ex­ploded in the crowded court­yard of the mosque on May 18, 2007 just as the Fri­day con­gre­ga­tion was com­ing to an end.

Five more peo­ple later died when po­lice opened fire on a group of Mus­lims protest­ing against the blast.

Two other ac­cused for­mer — RSS preacher San­deep V. Dange and Ram­chan­dra Kal­san­gra from Mad­hya Pradesh — re­main listed as ab­scon­ders and are yet to be ar­rested.

An­other two ac­cused Te­jram Par­mar and Amith Chowhan are still un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

The other ac­cused ac­quit­ted yes­ter­day were RSS leader Deven­der Gupta (Ra­jasthan), RSS ac­tivist Lokesh Sharma (Mad­hya Pradesh), Bharat Mo­han­lal, Ratesh­war alias Bharat Bhai (Gu­jarat) and Ra­jen­dra Chowdhary (Mad­hya Pradesh).

Over the last 11 years the case saw many twists and turns start­ing with the ini­tial in­ves­ti­ga­tion by the Spe­cial In­ves­ti­ga­tion Team (SIT) of Hy­der­abad city po­lice which, sus­pect­ing the in­volve­ment of Is­lamist groups, ar­rested 100 lo­cal youths.

Of these 26 were charged with con­spir­acy but a lo­cal court threw it out.

Sub­se­quently the state gov­ern­ment handed over the case to the Cen­tral Bureau of In­ves­ti­ga­tion, which ar­rested Deven­der Gupta and Lokesh Sharma on June 17, 2010 for al­leged in­volve­ment in the blast.

In view of the in­ter­state na­ture of the crime, the case was handed over to the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency on April 4, 2011.

Af­ter in­ves­ti­ga­tions and some more ar­rests the NIA filed the charge sheet against ten ac­cused be­fore the spe­cial court on Fe­bru­ary 13, 2014. Dur­ing the trial 226 wit­nesses were ex­am­ined in the court and 411 doc­u­ments were pro­duced.

While the Na­tional In­ves­ti­ga­tion Agency of­fi­cials said that they will de­cide further course of ac­tion af­ter get­ting the copy of the judge­ment and ex­am­in­ing it.

Rel­a­tives of vic­tims of the blast re­acted to the ac­quit­tal with shock and dis­be­lief.

“If these ac­cused were in­no­cent, then who killed those peo­ple”, asked Mo­ham­mad Sha­keen, a kin of one of the vic­tims of the blast.

Bi­ased in­ves­ti­ga­tion

Sum­ming up the feel­ings, Hy­der­abad MP and MIM Pres­i­dent Asadud­din Owaisi that the ac­quit­tal has weak­ened the fight against ter­ror­ism.

“Jus­tice has not been done”, he said, “This was a com­pletely bi­ased in­ves­ti­ga­tion”.

PTI

Po­lice of­fi­cials out­side the his­toric Makkah Masjid in the old city of Hy­der­abad, Te­lan­gana, yes­ter­day. An at­tack on the mosque in 2007 killed nine peo­ple and in­jured 58 oth­ers.

PTI

Swami Asee­m­anand (right) was one of five peo­ple ac­quit­ted by the spe­cial NIA court in Hy­der­abad.

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