Fourteen years after five Jaish-e-Mohammad operatives tried to storm the makeshift temple at the disputed Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site in Ayodhya, a special court in Allahabad Tuesday convicted four persons and sentenced them to life imprisonment for their role in the terror attack. One of the accused was, however, acquitted by the court for lack of evidence.
In the terror attack on July 5, 2005, two local residents were killed and seven CRPF personnel were injured. All the five terrorists were killed by the security forces.
“Special Judge Dinesh Chand on Tuesday awarded life imprisonment to four of the accused — Dr Irfan, Asif Iqbal alias Farooque, Shakeel Ahmed, Mohammad Naseem. The court convicted them of various charges, including murder conspiracy. The court found that they were associates of the five terrorists who had attacked the disputed site in Ayodhya in 2005 and were gunned down by security forces. The court also acquitted Mohammad Aziz for want of evidence,” District Government Counsel (Allahabad) Gulab Chand Agrihari said. The court has also imposed a fine of Rs 60,000 each on the four convicts, he added.
In the police investigation that followed the terror attack, five persons — Dr Irfan, Asif Iqbal alias Farooque, Shakeel Ahmed, Mohammad Naseem and Mohammad Aziz — were arrested for allegedly hatching conspiracy and providing logistic and material support to the Jaish terrorists gunned down in the attack. While Dr Irfan is a native of Saharanpur district, others are residents of Poonch in Jammu.
The hearing in the case was held inside the Naini Central jail where the accused were lodged. The trial of the case was shifted from Ayodhya to Allahabad on the direction of the Allahabad High Court in 2006 following protest by locals in Ayodhya.
According to the government counsel, the court had examined 63 prosecution witnesses.
According to Agrihari, Asif Iqbal alias Farooque was the driver of the Tata Sumo in which weapons used in the terror attack were brought from Kashmir to Aligarh in UP. According to the prosecution, a special cavity was made in the vehicle to keep the weapons. Asif, who is married and ha sa daughter, worked as a class IV employee in a university in Jammu before police arrested him in connection with the terror attack.
Shakeel Ahmed, a 39-year-old farmer convicted on Tuesday, owned the Tata Sumo in which the arms and ammunition were brought to Aligarh, said Agrihari.
The charges against 49-year-old Mohammad Naseem (49) was that the calls were made from the SIM allotted on his name to a cellphone recovered from slain terrorists, said Agrihari. Naseem, who is married and has four children, worked as a teacher on contractual basis in a government school in Jammu. Dr Irfan, a bachelor of Unani Medical & Surgery (BUMS), was accused of providing shelters to the five terrorists.
Agrihari said that Dr Irfan is also accused of making calls from the cellphone recovered from slain terrorists by inserting his SIM card. Dr Irfan was running a medical clinic in Delhi and Saharanpur before police arrested him. Mohammad Aziz, 56, who has been acquitted, was charged for verifying the identity of Mohammad Naseem when he had purchased the SIM card. Aziz who has three children worked in Jammu when the police had arrested him in 2005 in connection with the terror attack.
“Mohammad Aziz will be released from jail after completing legal formalities,” said Agrihari.
When contacted, defence counsel Shamshul Hasan said that they would file an appeal against the special court’s verdict after consulting families of convicts.
According to prosecution, on July 5, 2005 five terrorists attacked the highly secured Ram Janambhoomi-Babri Masjid site after entering the prohibited area on a rented jeep. The jeep hit the security cordon and the terrorists used hand grenades and AK-47 assault rifles to breach the fence. All the four terrorist were gunned down in a fierce exchange of fire with the security forces. Two local residents of Ayodhya- Shanti Devi (50) and Ramesh Chandra Panda (25)— were also killed in the firing and seven CRPF jawans got injured.
The police had seized a cellphone, grenades, five AK-47 rifles and pistols from the possession of terror suspects, said Agrihari, adding that one of the terrorists was later identified as Arshad.