Mumbai, Sept 7: The Special TADA Court on Friday sentenced two convicts in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case to death, two to life imprisonment and one to 10 years in jail. While Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan got life imprisonment with a penalty of RS 2 lakh each, it was Tahir Merchant and Feroz Khan, who have been awarded death sentence. Riyaz Siddiqui has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Those found guilty were Abu Salem who was extradited from Portugal in 2005, Mustafa Dossa, who was deported from the UAE and died of a heart attack in jail days after being convicted, Mohammed Tahir Merchant alias Tahir Takla, Karimullah Khan, Riyaz Siddiqui and Feroze Abdul Rashid Khan.
The court had convicted Salem, Merchant, Feroz and Karimullah on charges of criminal conspiracy, murder and indulging in acts of terrorism that cause death. Siddiqui was found guilty of abetting and aiding terrorism. (Here’s the timeline of the case)
Even as there was demand to give a death sentence to Abu Salem, he got life imprisonment. Salem was found guilty of transporting weapons from Gujarat to Mumbai ahead of the blasts that left over 250 people dead. He had handed over to Sanjay Dutt — who was an accused in the case for illegally possessing weapons — AK 56 rifles, 250 rounds and some hand grenades at his residence on January 16, 1993. On January 18, 1993, Salem and two others went to Dutt’s house and got back two rifles and some rounds. However, Salem couldn’t have been sentenced to death as per the Extradition treaty since he has been extradited from Portugal, even as the court said he deserved death penalty.
Senior lawyer Ujjwal Nikam confirmed that even though the extradition treaty between India and Portugal related to Salem says that he cannot be given death or a jail term of more than 25 years, the terrorist will spend his entire life incarcerated as the treaty was not binding on the court.
Taher Merchant and Feroze Khan, as court said while pronouncing their death sentence, committed the rarest of rare crime. Taher was charged with helping the accused travel to Pakistan via Dubai for training in handling arms and ammunition. Taher grew up with Dawood and his brothers and had a predominant role in the blasts. He allegedly motivated associates to arrange men from Mumbai for training in handling of arms and ammunition in Pakistan. Khan has been charged with off-loading consignments sent by Dossa.
On the basis of confessions made by Abu Salem, Riyaz Siddiqui was arrested and was convicted for providing logistical support – arranging car and finance for transportation of the accused – and ammunition. He has been sentenced to 10 years in jail.
A series of 12 blasts rocked Mumbai on March 12, 1993, leaving 257 people dead and 713 dead. The blasts took place at Bombay Stock Exchange, Katha Bazaar, Lucky petrol pump near Sena Bhavan, opposite Passport office near Century Bazaar, Fishermen’s colony at Mahim Causeway, at basement of Air India Building, Zaveri Bazaar, Hotel Sea Rock, Plaza Theatre, Centaur Hotel (Juhu), Sahar Airport (Bay no.54) and Centaur Hotel (near airport).