Ahmedabad: The Gujarat High Court on Tuesday upheld the death sentence awarded to three convicts in the
2002 Akshardham terror attack in which 32 people were killed,
and said it was a criminal conspiracy of mass killing of
Hindus by Pak-based outfits to avenge the post-Godhra riots.
A division bench of Justices R M Doshit and K M Thakar,
while pronouncing the verdict, rejected the appeal of six
convicts, three of them awarded death sentence, against the
judgement by the special POTA court here.
"Some foreign nationals, presumably religious fanatics
and members of the terrorist groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and
Lashkar-e-Toiba, out of hatred for Hindus, decided to commit
crime against them in Gujarat and accomplished their goal
without any loss to themselves," the court observed.
"They (persons of foreign origin) made a master plan of
mass killing of Hindus in Gujarat to wreak vengeance for the
loss suffered by the Muslims during the communal riots in the
state in 2002," it said.
Two LeT militants and Pakistan nationals, Murtuza Hafiz
Yasin and Ashraf Ali Mohammed Farooq, were killed by NSG
commandos during the attack on the temple near here on
September 24, 2002.
To execute the plan, the terror organisations roped in
young Muslims from India, particularly from Gujarat, working
in Saudi Arabia, the judges said.
"They instigated young Muslims from Gujarat to become
members of the terrorist groups. They were instigated to rise
to fight for Islam and in name of Islam," the court said.
The court was of the opinion that apart from the victims
who died or injured in the attack, the convicts themselves
were victims of religious fanaticism.
"The accused got involved with full knowledge of what was
the aim of the conspiracy and what would be the consequences. They
enthusiastically carried out their part of the conspiracy
ruthlessly without considering the consequence that would fall
upon them and their families. We look at them as the victims
of religious fanaticism."
The judges said they were aware of the fact that the
convicts were ordinary citizens of India who did not have any
criminal background. "(But) the gravity of the crime they have
committed far outweighs these mitigating factors."
Terrorists armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades
had stormed the Akshardham temple and killed 32 people -- 28
devotees, three commandos, including one from NSG, and a
constable of the State Reserve Police (SRP).
NSG commandos were called from Delhi and they shot down
the two terrorists holed up inside the sprawling temple after
a 14-hour gunbattle. The terrorists had planned to take
hostages, but they were not successful in their attempt.
Three persons -- Adam Ajmeri, Shan Miya alias Chand Khan
from Bareilly and Mufti Abdul Qyyum Mansuri, were awarded
death sentence by the POTA court in July 2006.
Among three other convicts, local youth Mohammed Salim
Shaikh was awarded life sentence, while Abdulmiyan Qadri and
Altaf Hussain were given 10 and five years in jail,
The court observed that the attack could have been
avoided had Mufti Mansuri and Abdulmiyan Qadri, the community
leaders, been vigilant.
"Instead of fuelling hatred, they could have utilised
their authority to pacify the people and to douse the sense of
hatred. The carnage, which could have easily been avoided, was
The court further said the convicts too were victims of
the same crime as they are going to lose their life to the
gallows or in jail.
"Their families will have to suffer for rest of their
lives. We only wish these young people, who are easily lured
into committing the crime in the name of religion, are also
made aware of the consequences that may befall upon them and
their families. Their energy and idiosyncrasies could be
diverted for constructive work for betterment of themselves
and the society," the court noted.
About the role of the convicts, the court said Ajmeri,
an autorickshaw owner, had taken the two terrorists around the
city to help them choose a target.
Chand Khan, originally from Anantnag in Jammu and Kashmir,
who owned an auto garage in Bareilly, UP, had arranged for
arms and ammunition. Mansuri had written letters, calling for
the `bloodbath of Hindus`, which were found in the pocket of
one of the slain terrorists.