NEARLY FOUR years after the terrorist attack on the Akshardham temple that left 32 people dead and 81 injured, a POTA court today convicted all six accused and awarded death sentence to three of them.
The judgment was pronounced by Judge Sonia Gokani in the high-security Sabarmati jail. While Chand Khan, Adam Suleman Ajmeri and Mufti Abdul Qayuum were sentenced to death, the other three accused, Mohammad Salim, Abdullah Miyan and Altaf Hussain, were awarded life imprisonment, ten years for conspiracy and five years for raising funds in Riyadh for the operation, respectively. The death sentence is subject to confirmation by the high court, defence counsel HN Jhala said.
The incident occurred on September 24, 2002, when militants stormed the temple complex in a car, driven by Chand Khan, along with ammunition. Two of them were wearing army uniform. Once inside the temple complex, they opened indiscriminate fire and lobbed grenades at the devotees. Among those killed in the night-long gunbattle that followed were two National Security Guard (NSG) commandos and two state police commandos. Two militants — Murtuza of Lahore and Ashraf Ali of Rawalpindi — were also killed. While the police managed to arrest the six accused, 26 others are absconding.
Chandan Khan was the first to be arrested by the J&K police in connection with some other case. The Gujarat Police later found that he was the main accused behind the Akshardham conspiracy and took him on transit remand. Ajmeri, a resident of Danapith area, had allegedly taken the two militants in an auto-rickshaw for a recce of the area. And Qayuum had allegedly written the letter found in the pocket of the slain militants.