The Gujarat High Court today ordered release of 18 convicts awarded 10 years in jail in a terror conspiracy case,treating the prison term they have undergone till date as their punishment after they agreed not to press for their acquittal.
The HC,after granting relief to the convicts,disposed of their appeals against a Special Court’s order awarding them 10 years’ rigorous imprisonment (RI).
On January 12,2010,a Special POTA (Prevention of Terrorism Act) Court held 22 persons guilty in a case where they were charged with hatching a conspiracy with the help of Pakistan’s spy agency ISI and terrorist groups to avenge the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat.
Of them,18 were awarded 10 years’ RI and fined Rs 10,000 each. These included Mohammad Parvez,Younus Sarshwala,Anas Machiswala,Riaz alias Goru,Rahan Puthawala and Shahnawaz Gandhi.
Three others were awarded nine-year jail term,while the fourth convict,an advocate,was handed down three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment for the revenge plot (called ISI or jehadi conspiracy case).
The convicts awarded 10-year RI had told the Division Bench of Justices D H Waghela and G B Shah,which was hearing their appeals,they have been in prison for more then five years and if the court considers their time spent in prison as term of sentence undergone,they are willing not to press for their appeals for acquittal.
The HC sought the State Government’s reply on the plea of the convicts. Special Public Prosecutor J M Panchal maintained the State has no objection if the court is ready to consider their prayer.
Following this,the Bench today pronounced that these 18 convicts can be set free if they were not needed to be kept in custody in any other cases.
All these convicts were granted bail by HC in July 2010,while their appeals against the conviction were pending for hearing.
The HC also reduced their fine to Rs 100 each from Rs 10,000,keeping their financial condition in mind. The convicts were ordered to deposit the amount in one month.
The case was filed in 2003 against a total of 44 persons. Twenty-two of them,mostly from Hyderabad,were acquitted for want of evidence.
Of the 22 convicts,21 are from Ahmedbad and one from Mumbai.
The accused had been charged with illegally crossing over to Pakistan for arms training to unleash terror in order to avenge the 2002 riots.