A fast-track court at Visnagar in Mehsana district on Friday acquitted all the 109 accused who were alleged to have been part of a 2,000-strong mob that killed two Muslims in Umta village during the 2002 post-Godhra riots.
All the accused,who are currently out on bail,were given benefit of the doubt by the court presided over by judge K B Magnani.
The two victims in the case had been been identified as Mohammed Abdul Shaikh (around 65) and Abdul Ibrahim Mansuri (around 60). Shaikh was a retired teacher.
According to advocate Iqbal Shaikh,who represented the victims and witnesses,the incident had taken place around 12 noon on February 28,2002,during a bandh called by the Vishwa Hindu Parisahd to protest the Godhra train carnage.
Due to the bandh call,most of the villagers had moved out of the village,except the two families of Shaikh and Mansuri. A 2,000-strong mob attacked the Muslim-dominated Kasba mohalla and burnt and looted around 100 houses there, advocate Shaikh said,adding the two were chased down and killed during the rampage. The eye-witnesses saw the accused killing the two with sharp-edged weapons. However,their bodies have not been recovered to date, he added.
The case has had a bumpy legal course.
The Gujarat High Court had stayed proceedings in the case after the victims moved an application for further investigation,which the HC eventually ordered. More than seven trial judges were transferred from the case during pendency of the trial, advocate Shaikh said.
The list of accused,most of them from the locally dominant Patel community,included the then Sarpanch of Umta village,Ranchhod Patel.
Haider Ali Mohammed Shaikh,son of deceased Mohammed Abdul Shaikh,said they would appeal against the judgment.