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17 Jun 2017

Salem found guilty in Bombay blasts case

A file picture of Abu Salem
TT, June 16: A special Tada court today convicted Abu Salem, gangster and former henchman of Dawood Ibrahim, and five others over the 1993 Bombay serial blasts that killed 257 people.
One suspect, Abdul Qayyum, was let off for want of evidence. The seven had faced multiple charges that included criminal conspiracy, murder and waging war against the nation.
Salem was extradited from Portugal in November 2005 to stand trial and was charged with collecting arms from Bharuch in Gujarat and distributing them in Mumbai - it was then Bombay - in the second week of January 1993.
Two months later, on March 12, 1993, 12 explosions had ripped through the country's financial capital in a span of two hours. Besides the over 250 who perished, 713 people were seriously injured. The blasts were the first-ever terror attack globally where RDX was used on such a large scale after the Second World War.
This was the second leg of the blasts trial. In the first that concluded in 2007, the court had convicted 100 persons and let off 23.
The hearings of the seven were separated as they were arrested at the time of conclusion of the main trial. Besides Salem, the other convicts were Mustafa Dossa - who planned the landing of arms - Karimullah Khan, Firoz Abdul Rashid Khan, Riyaz Siddiqui and Tahir Merchant.
Special judge G.A Sanap convicted Siddiqui only for helping Salem and others transport arms. The court said the prosecution had failed to prove co
nspiracy charges against Siddiqui.
The judge also absolved all seven of the charge of waging war against the nation. They were tried under the stringent Special Terrorism and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act, the law that replaced Tada after its repeal.
The court will start hearings from June 19 to decide the quantum of the sentences. Lawyers said the maximum punishment for offences that Salem had been convicted of was death.
But the Centre had committed to Portugal, from where the gangster was extradited, that he would not be given the death penalty. Portugal, as a member of the European Union, is against capital punishment.
"Salem had been extradited from Portugal on the condition that he would not be given the death sentence or a life term of more than 25 years. The Indian government had given a written assurance to the Portuguese government that he would not face the death penalty," a Union home ministry official said.
Salem had handed over to actor Sanjay Dutt AK-56 rifles, 250 bullets and some grenades at his home on January 16, 1993. Two days later, on January 18, Salem and two others went to Sanjay's house and got back some arms. Sanjay was sentenced to five years for possessing the arms and released from Pune's Yerwada Jail in February last year, a few months before his five-year term was to end.
Dawood, India's most wanted underworld don, is the alleged mastermind of the blasts along with Tiger Memon and brother Yakub Memon. Dawood and Tiger are still absconding.
Yakub was executed on July 30, 2015, after several of his clemency pleas were rejected, including a post-midnight hearing by the Supreme Court on the day he was hanged.
The blasts were believed to have been carried out in response to the riots after the December 1992 demolition of the Babri Masjid.
"In our chargesheet, we had extensively highlighted that the attack was planned and executed as a revenge for the riots. The objective was to strike terror in people and adversely affect harmony among different sections of society," a CBI officer said today.
The victims' families welcomed the verdict. "Justice should no longer be delayed. Justice delayed is justice denied. We have suffered a lot till now," Kirti Ajmera, one of those who survived the blast outside the Bombay Stock Exchange, was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Tushar Deshmukh, who lost his mother, said: "We are very positive and respect the Tada court's verdict. The decisions are in our favour."

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