New Delhi: A Delhi court Saturday awarded life term to six Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami (HuJI) terrorists, including three Pakistanis, for plotting to kidnap cricketers Sachin Tendulkar and Sourav Ganguly in 2002.
Additional Sessions Judge Pinki (one name) sentenced all the six convicts to rigorous life imprisonment under the stringent Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) saying the punishment "must send a clear message that India is not nor will it become a safe haven for terrorists".
The court accepted the prosecution`s plea to award the maximum punishment to them under the POTA.
The accused had also planned to attack Bhabha Atomic Research Centre in Mumbai and assassinate the then president A.P.J. Abdul Kalam in 2002.
"Terrorism is a unique crime. It has no equals. Terrorism anywhere is a threat to peace," the court said.
"It is far more insidious as it attacks our values of life and seeks to destroy the fundamentals to which we are committed," the court said in its order on the quantum of sentence.
While pleading for a lenient view, the HuJI terrorists contended that the Delhi High Court had reduced the jail term of three of their associates, who pleaded guilty earlier, to eight years.
The court, however, rejected the plea and awarded the maximum punishment for the crime prescribed under the POTA and other penal statutes.
"There is no evidence that these convicts are remorseful for their conduct that was illegal and potentially lethal nor is there any possibility of their rehabilitation," the court said.
The court had Dec 24, held all the six men guilty under various provisions of the POTA and other penal provisions.
The convicts from Pakistan are Tariq Mohammed, Arshad Khan and Ashfaq Ahmed. Three Indians -- Mufti Israr, Ghulam Qadir Bhatt and Ghulam Mohd Dar -- were also held guilty.
"The convicts wanted to secure the release of two HuJI terrorists Nasarullah Langrial and Abdul Rahim who were then lodged in different jails here," the police said.
The prosecution said that Rahim was an associate of Asif Raza Khan, an aide of Umar Sheikh who was released by the Indian government, along with others, in return for the release of passengers of an hijacked Indian Airlines plane in Afghanistan in 1999.
The convicts faced trial for offences of collecting arms with the intention of waging war against the nation and conspiring to commit offences against the state.
Besides the POTA, the accused were charged under the Arms Act and the three Pakistanis were also tried under the Foreigners Act.
The prosecution had relied on e-mail exchanges of the accused with their Pakistan-based handlers to drive home the charges in the case.
Defence lawyer M.S. Khan rebutted the prosecution claim saying the alleged e-mails were forged as most of the accused were in custody during the period when the e-mails were exchanged.
Initially, police arrested 10 HuJI militants, including six Pakistanis, in 2002. Out of them, three Pakistanis -- Mohammed Amran, Abdul Majeed and Mohammed Ashraf -- pleaded guilty in 2003 and were awarded eight years jail term for their varying roles, besides the fine.
Jalaluddin, who was termed as the mastermind, managed to escape from police custody during the probe and was later declared a proclaimed offender by the court.