MumbaiTwenty-four years after serial blasts ripped Mumbai apart, two men have been sentenced to death, two others to life, and one to 10 years of rigorous imprisonment by a special court for their role in the attack that killed over 250 people and injured more than 700 others. One of the two people sentenced to life is gangster Abu Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in 2005.
The special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court on Thursday awarded death penalty to Feroz Khan and Tahir Merchant for conspiring against the State and murder, and gave life sentences to Salem and Karimullah Khan. The fifth accused, Riyaz Siddiqui, got a 10-year jail term. Yet another convict, Mustafa Dossa, died of cardiac arrest, following which the case against him was abated.
The trial of Salem, Dossa, Karimullah Khan, Firoz Khan, Siddiqui and Merchant was separated from the main case as they were arrested subsequently. 35 others, including prime accused Dawood Ibrahim, his associates Tiger Memon and Javed Chikna, are still on the run.
Despite being held guilty of conspiracy under the stringent TADA, Abu Salem managed to escape the noose because of the extradition treaty that India signed with Portugal to bring him back to the country. According to the treaty signed in 2007, persons extradited from Portugal cannot be sentenced to death or a jail term of over 25 years. CBI lawyer Deepak Salvi said the government could use its powers to extend Salems jail-term from the current 24 to 25 years.
Salem, who was close to Dawood Ibrahims brother Anees Ibrahim and Dossa, played a key role in bringing a part of the arms and ammunition from Dighi to Mumbai, the court had said. This was vital towards achievement of the conspiracy so that the weapons could be used to terrorise and torment innocent citizens of India.
The court had held that Merchant was among the main conspirators. He worked with absconding conspirator Tiger Memon and participated in several conspiracy meetings in Dubai, besides making travel arrangements, financing the stay and travel of several co-accused and facilitating their training in Pakistan, the court noted.
The court had rejected Firozs defence that he was not Firoz Khan but one Hamza. The prosecution proved he was a member of the Dossa gang, and participated in all the landings of weapons effected by Dossa brothers.
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