A Special Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) court today found three people,including a woman,guilty of the 2003 Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar bomb blasts which killed 52 people and wounded more than 200.
The trio,Hanif Syed,his wife Fehmida Syed,and Ashrat Ansari,were also convicted for the bomb explosion in a city bus in Ghatkopar in which two people were killed,and another bomb that failed to explode in Andheri,both in 2002. Their sentencing is scheduled for August 4 and the prosecution said it would seek the maximum punishment of death penalty.
Hanif,46,Fehmida,43,and Ansari,32,were found guilty of all charges that were levelled against them including sections 120,302,307 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and under various sections of POTA for conspiracy,murder and attempt to murder. Special POTA Judge M R Puranik read out the judgment in a packed court room after dictating it for nearly a month.
The trial largely relied on the evidence given by the driver of the taxi used by the trio to plant the bombs,the deposition of an accused who turned approver and the confession of Hanif and Fehmida. The couple said that the blast aimed to avenge the killing of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 in the aftermath of Godhra.
We were totally blinded by our Pakistani friends who kept showing CDs of how atrocities were meted out to our Muslim brothers in Gujarat, the confession reads.Humne kasam khai thi ki hum Gujratiyon ko sabak sikhayenge (We had pledged to teach Gujaratis a lesson).
The six-year-long trial saw three among the accused being discharged and another turning approver. Mohammed Ansari alias Usman Ladoowala and Mohammed Ansar Shaikh alias Hassan Batterywala,who had spent over five years in jail,were discharged by the Supreme Court in 2008 after the POTA Review Committee gave them a clean chit in 2005. Another accused,Nasir Ahmed,was shot dead in an encounter near Matunga just a fortnight after the blasts.
The police had also arrested Hanif and Fehmidas daughter,who was 16 years old in 2003,accusing her of being a conspirator and a bomb planter as well. But she was subsequently discharged. Defence lawyers maintain that the girls arrest was a pressure tactic to extract a confession from her parents.
On the day of sentencing,we will try to reason it with the judge on how the minor was used as an object of mental torture by the prosecution to extract confession. The confession was the only way the prosecution could build their case and they efficiently managed it, said Abdul Wahab Khan,the lawyer of the couple.
The prosecution,on the other hand,pointed out that it had also relied on strong evidence such as the gelatin sticks,timers and other bomb-making equipment found in Hanifs house. Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam had argued that the group,at the behest of Lashkar-e-Toiba,had hatched the conspiracy in Dubai.
The group would have carried out many more blasts had they not been apprehended then. The link was established after the police followed the trail and found that the unexploded bomb in Andheri and the Ghatkopar bus blast had similar components as used in the twin blast, Nikam said.
In fact,the same accused had earlier carried out blasts in Andheri and Ghatkopar but with gelatin sticks. However,their handlers in Pakistan were unhappy with the low intensity blasts and asked them to go for something bigger. Thus RDX was used at Gateway and Zaveri Bazaar,leading to several casualties, Nikam said.