Abu Salem gets life in jail, two sentenced to death in 1993 Mumbai blasts case
Tahir Merchant and Firoz Khan were sentenced to death, while Karimullah Khan got life imprisonment and Riyaz Khan was handed a 10-year jail term.Updated: Sep 08, 2017 00:38 IST
A court on Thursday sentenced two men to death and two more, including gangster Abu Salem, to life in jail for the 1993 Mumbai serial bombings that killed 257 people.
A fifth convict, Riyaz Siddiqui, was given 10 years in prison.
The verdict came 24 years after the dozen blasts in India’s financial capital and nearly 80 days after they were found guilty by the Special Tada Court.
The 50-year-old Salem was spared the gallows because of an extradition treaty with Portugal, where he was hiding before being brought to India.
Salem and his former actress-girlfriend Monica Bedi were arrested by Interpol in Lisbon in 2002 and were handed to Indian agencies in November 2005.
An important clause in the Indo-Portuguese treaty for the fugitive gangster’s extradition was an assurance by New Delhi that he would not be sentenced to death.
“The extradition treaty says the maximum sentence permissible to him is 25 years, since life imprisonment and death penalty are banned in Portugal,” special public prosecutor Deepak Salve said.
“The government will take a decision … whether to commute the life sentence to 25 years.”
Co-convicts Firoz Khan and Tahir Merchant were free from such constraints. Special TADA court Judge GA Sanap sentenced them to death for the dozen explosions that wounded 713 people and destroyed property worth ₹27 crore.
Karimullah Khan, a close aide of India’s most wanted man Dawood Ibrahim, was awarded life imprisonment.
Dawood had ordered the attacks to avenge the demolition of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya by a Hindu mob a year before, which triggered large-scale religious riots.
The court in June convicted six people, including fellow mastermind Mustafa Dossa and Salem.
Dossa died of a heart attack in Mumbai’s JJ Hospital a few days after his conviction.
The men were arrested between 2003 and 2010. Another suspect, Abdul Qayoom Karim Shaikh, was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The accused gathered to “take revenge against the government of India and against members of the Hindu community” after the riots in 1992, the court said.
The court said Salem was one of the conspirators and was close to Anees Ibrahim Kaskar, Dawood’s brother, and Dossa. He brought arms and ammunition to Mumbai.
The attacks also embroiled Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who served time for buying weapons from gangsters accused of orchestrating the bombings before walking free last year.
Salem had delivered three AK-56 rifles, ammunition and hand grenades to the actor.
On a quiet afternoon of March 12, 1993, the coastal megapolis was shattered by a 12 coordinated blasts in quick succession. The prime targets included the Air India building, Bombay Stock Exchange, Zaveri Bazar, and five-star hotels SeaRock and Juhu Centaur.
Legal proceedings against those accused of being involved in the bombings resulted in more than 100 convictions, most of which are still winding their way through the legal system because of appeals and commutations of sentences.
One suspect in the case, Yakub Memon, was hanged in 2015.
The court held that Merchant was among the conspirators. He worked with Tiger Memon, another fugitive conspirator, participated in several meetings in Dubai.
“The role of Tahir in the conspiracy is prominent. He is one of the initiators of the conspiracy,” the court said in its ruling on June 16.
The court had rejected Firoz Khan’s defence of mistaken identity. He claimed that he was not Khan but Hamza.
The prosecution proved that he was a trusted member of the Dossa gang, and participated in all the “landings” of weapons by Dossa brothers in Raigad district, the court held.
(with agency inputs)