As arguments continue on the quantum of punishment in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case, convict Abu Salem Monday claimed he had been “unfairly treated” by the prosecution and the government. Salem, who faces life imprisonment, submitted through advocate Sudeep Pasbola that he has already spent 15 years in prison. Salem was detained in Lisbon, Portugal on September 18, 2002 and extradited to India in 2005.“He (Salem) would be required to be treated like the accused placed similarly like him in the case. He has undergone twice the maximum sentence that was awarded to his other co-accused,” Pasbola argued.
As per the CBI, Salem’s role in the blast was him, along with accused Aziz Bilakhia, going to Gujarat in the second week of January 1993, in a Maruti car to receive arms, ammunition and explosives and to transport them to Mumbai. Salem then allegedly exchanged the car for a Maruti van brought by Riyaz Siddiqui, who was also convicted by the special court on June 16. Salem had transported the weapons to Mumbai and delivered them to actor Sanjay Dutt. The CBI court had found Salem guilty of charges including criminal conspiracy, murder and relevant sections of the Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
It had said that Salem’s “close proximity” with main conspirators Anees Ibrahim and Mustafa Dossa was the reason he took it upon himself to transport and conceal the weapons. Pasbola argued that India had gone back on many assurances given to the Portugal government at the time of Salem’s extradition. “It was not just the extradition treaty. There were many assurances including those which are not on paper but were made by the high and mighty of the government. These cannot be blatantly ignored…at least now the system should redeem itself and stop the miscarriage of justice,” Pasbola argued.
He said that he had sought the opportunity to examine some witnesses, including the then deputy prime minister LK Advani, but was not permitted to do so. Pasbola said authorities in the Indian government who had been part of the extradition treaty should have been examined to ask whether they complied with the undertakings given to Portugal. He will continue his submissions on behalf of Salem on Tuesday.