Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister Omar Abdullah Thursday hailed the army's decision to sentence seven soldiers to life imprisonment for staging a fake gun battle that killed three civilians.
"The army has handed out life sentences to seven, including the CO (commanding officer), in the Machil fake encounter case of 2010. This is indeed a welcome step," he said on Twitter.
The seven soldiers were identified as then commanding officer Colonel DK Pathania, Captain Upender Singh, Subedar Satbir Singh, Havaldar Bir Singh, Sepoy Chandraban, Sepoy Nagendra Singh and Sepoy Narender Singh.
In another tweet, the chief minister said: "This is a watershed moment. No one in Kashmir ever believed that justice would be done in such cases...
"I hope we never see such Machil fake encounter type of incidents ever again and let this serve as a warning to those tempted to try," he said.
Shezad Ahmad, Muhammad Shafi and Riyaz Ahmad, all from Nadihal village in Baramulla district, were gunned down by the army near the Line of Control (LoC) in Machil in Kupwara district May 3, 2010.
The army had then claimed the youths were Pakistan-trained guerrillas who were killed while trying to infiltrate into the Kashmir Valley.
But when pictures of the slain youths were published in newspapers, family and relatives identified them as three missing youths who had no connection with militancy.
Police investigation established that two men, Abbas Hussain and Bashir Ahmad, who worked with the army, lured the three youths in the name of providing them jobs.
But they were taken to Machil and killed in cold blood.
The family of the deceased had in 2010 demanded a trial in a civil court. But the army opted for a general court martial.
The court martial, however, exonerated Abbas Hussain Shah of the Territorial Army. The court proceedings were presided over by Brigadier Deepal Mehra.