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    1993 Mumbai blasts case: Special court convicts six, acquits one
    MUMBAI: Six accused were pronounced guilty on Friday by a special court in the 1993 serial blasts case that claimed 257 lives in the city. Qayyum Shaikh, 64, behind bars for almost 11 years, was acquitted for lack of evidence. Special judge Govind A Sanap found "concrete evidence" against gangsters Abu Salem, 48, and Mustafa Dossa, 60, Taher Merchant, 55, Feroze Khan, 47, and Karimullah Khan, 55, and convicted them on charges of criminal conspiracy, murder and indulging in acts of terrorism that cause death during the hour-long procedure. Riyaz Siddiqui, 67, was found guilty for abetting and aiding terrorism, a charge that attracts a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. Arguments by the prosecution on the quantum of sentence are likely to begin in the special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court on Monday. "The CBI will seek the death sentence against four accused (Dossa, Merchant, Feroze and Khan). In light of the undertaking given to Portugal at the time of Salem's extradition, we will have to examine the options regarding his sentencing," said CBI special counsel Deepak Salvi. The undertaking says Salem cannot be booked under charges that attract a sentence of more than 25 years. This trial of the seven is the second in the 1993 case. The main trial of 123 accused ended in 2006 with the conviction of 100. Yakub Memon, brother of prime absconding accused Tiger Memon, was hanged in 2015, and the others have or are serving their sentences. Friday's verdict stands out since the evidence adduced in the main trial was also used in the second one. This is uncommon in criminal trials and will help the prosecution if and when absconding accused like Dawood Ibrahim or Tiger Memon are arrested. The court said none of the accused was held guilty under the IPC charge of waging war against the nation. When the court said evidence against Qayyum Shaikh, 64, accused of bringing smuggled arms to the city with Salem, "is not credible and acceptable" and acquitted him, he raised his folded arms and thanked the court. Shaikh was sitting alongside the others in the dock amid high security. Dossa chatted with those around. Salem kept to himself. Merchant, Siddiqui and Khan kept reciting prayers though the proceedings that began at 12.20 pm. The judge first pronounced the conviction against Dossa and said the prosecution has proved that after the Babri Masjid demolition and the subsequent riots, Dossa joined the first conspiracy meeting in Dubai in December 1992 with "other prime absconding" accused Md Dossa, Tiger Memon and Dawood Ibrahim. The accused deliberately and consciously participated in the meeting which gave birth to the original design of the criminal conspiracy to take revenge against the government and the Hindus. The accused was the member of the core group of conspirators," the judge said. Dossa could not hear the words properly and had to ask others about the verdict. When told the conspiracy charges were proved against him, Dossa appeared crestfallen. Calling Feroze one of the main conspirators, the court said he possessed "complete and crystal clear knowledge" being a close confidant of the Dossa brothers. It held that Feroze was "privy to the object of the conspiracy hatched, its aim and hence performed the same with vigour and determination". Though not alleged to have been present in any of the 15 conspiracy meetings, Salem was dubbed as one of the main conspirators for "acting in consonance with the object of the conspiracy hatched" by absconding accused Anees Ibrahim and Dossa. The court said that given his close proximity to them, he took it upon himself to bring some part of the arms and ammunitions smuggled into India through the landing on Dighi Jetty on January 9, 1993. Recommended By Colombia The court spoke extensively about Merchant's "prominent role" and "indulgence in the conspiracy (that) must be held directly responsible for the bomb explosions". Khan participated in conspiracy meetings and sent an accused for weapons training in Pakistan.


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