ArrayMumbai : A Special MCOCA Court on Tuesday sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal and six others to life imprisonment till death in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case.
Two others have been sentenced to life imprisonment of 14 years, and three others were awarded eight years jail. All those convicted were also fined Rs 20,000 each.
Special MCOCA Judge S.L. Anekar, who had found the 12 accused guilty on July 28, announced the quantum of punishment on Tuesday in a packed courtroom.
The seven sentenced to undergo life imprisonment till death are Abu Jundal, Mohammed Amir Shakil Ahmed, Bilal Ahmed Abdul Razaq, Sayyed Akif S. Jafruddin, Afroz Khan Shahid Pathan, Faisal Ataur-Rehman Shaikh and M. Aslam Kashmiri.
Two other convicts — M. Muzafar Mohammed Tanveer and medico M. Sharif Shabbir Ahmed — have been sentenced to serve 14 years in jail.
Three convicts slapped with eight-year sentences are: Afzal K. Nabi Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed M. Isaf Shaikh and Javed A. Abdul Majid.
Of the convicts, Faisal Ataur-Rehmah Shaikh had earlier been sentenced to death in the July 11, 2006, Mumbai serial blasts in suburban trains case.
From the total 22 accused, eight were acquitted on various grounds including lack of evidence. They were: Mohammed Juber Sayyed Anwar, Abdul Azim Abdul Jalil, Riyaz Ahmed M. Ramzan, Khatib Imran Akil Ahmed, Vikar Ahmed Nisar Shaikh, Abdul Samad Shamsher Khan, Mohammed Akil Ismail Momin and Firoz Tajuddin Deshmukh.
However, the stringent charges under Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) were dropped against all the accused and they have been punished under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities Prevention) Act, the Explosives Act and the Arms Act.
Special Judge Anekar has also upheld the prosecution’s plea that the case was part of a larger post-2002 Gujarat communal riots conspiracy to eliminate then Chief Minister (now Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia.
“It was a conspiracy after the 2002 Gujarat riots to eliminate then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and VHP leader Pravin Togadia,” Special Judge Anekar observed while delivering the verdict last week.
There were a total of 22 accused who were charged with procuring a huge quantity of explosives, arms and ammunition, and allegedly planned to target various political leaders for their role in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
The trial, which resumed in 2013 after the arrest of Abu Jundal, concluded in March this year before the MCOCA Special Court here.
The trial of two other accused — an absconder Shaikh Abdul Naim, and an approver-turned hostile witness Mehmud Sayyed — shall be conducted separately in the case.
The Special Court also accepted the prosecution’s contention that the arms, ammunition and explosives had been procured from Pakistan, and all the accused had a common through process for Islam with intentions to wage a ‘jihad’ (holy war).
Following a tip-off, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) teams chased a speeding Tata Indica and a Tata Sumo on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad on May 8, 2006.
They apprehended three suspects from the Tata Sumo — Mohammed Aamir Shakil Ahmed, Juber Sayed Anwar and Abdulazeem Abduljameel Shaikh — while the Tata Indica, allegedly driven by Abu Jundal, managed to give the slip.
In all, a total of 16 AK47 army assault rifles, 3,200 live cartridges, 43 kg of RDX and 50 hand grenades were seized from Khultabad, Yeola and Malegaon areas on two separate occasions by the ATS.
After escaping the police team, Jundal dumped the vehicle with another associate in Malegaon in Nashik district and fled to Bangladesh and then to Pakistan on a forged passport.
A native of Beed in Maharashtra, Jundal was later arrested after his deportation from Saudi Arabia in June 2012.
He then revealed to the ATS another hideout from where they recovered 13 kg RDX, 1,200 cartridges, 50 hand grenades and 22 magazine rounds.
In 2013 the ATS filed its chargesheet against all the 22 accused, including Jundal, for conspiring in various terror cases since 2006. The prosecution examined 100 witnesses while the defence examined 16 witnesses during the long trial.
Earlier, the trial had been stayed by the Supreme Court after one of the accused had challenged the constitutional validity of certain provisions in the MCOCA invoked on the accused but the stay was lifted in 2009.