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Man in wheelchair gets life for 1997-98 serial blasts

A decade after a series of blasts in various parts of the city,accused Ashfaq Sheikh,40,was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Sewree fast track court on Tuesday.

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: February 12, 2009 2:20 am

IN THE COURTS: A sentence in one terror case,a date for proceedings in another

A decade after a series of blasts in various parts of the city,accused Ashfaq Sheikh,40,was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Sewree fast track court on Tuesday.

Wheelchair-ridden Sheikh,whose limbs were severed in a blast while carrying an explosive-laden bag on his back,had been initially made a witness after he confessed of his role in the blasts and revealed those of 12 other accused. Though his confession had helped in the conviction of the co-accused,Sheikh later retracted his confession and was declared “hostile” by the court.

Of 12 other accused,one died in custody while the rest,charged with serial bombings that left four people dead,were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2004.

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam who conducted the trial said,“A person who decides to turn an approver and later doesn’t comply with the condition can be made an accused under section 308 of the Criminal Procedure. The only procedure is that the police have to file a fresh case and carry out the trial. With Sheikh,the same procedure was followed and a fresh case was lodged under which he was found guilty today.”

According to the police,a group of 13 men,which included Shaikh,had carried out low intensity explosions at six locations — Jama Masjid,Musafirkahana,between Kanjurmarg and Vikhroli railway stations,between Goregaon and Malad railway stations,in a slum at Golibar Nagar in Santacruz,on two platforms at Kandivli station and near a school in Virar — between August 1997 and February 1998. The last blast in February brought to light the clandestine activities carried out by the group when Sheikh got injured in one of the explosions. The police said the group was planning more blasts in the western suburbs of Mumbai.

Sheikh,an electrician by profession,was found guilty under section 302 of IPC for murder and section 4 of Explosive Substance Act. “Three Pakistani nationals are still wanted in the case. They were the prime accused who conspired and carried out the series of blasts. With parliamentary elections on February 28,1998,the bombers wanted to cause maximum damage to the city,” said investigating officer ACP Ravindra Patkar.

Sessions Judge C K Dhiren,while sentencing Sheikh,said: “This is what comes out of killing innocent women and children. Please ensure that your kids have better values been imparted and educate them. Your deed will not take (you) to Jannat (heaven) and even Allah will disown you.”

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