Bodh Gaya, Jun 1: A special NIA court sentenced five Indian Mujahideen militants convicted in the 2013 Bodh Gaya blasts case to life imprisonment on Friday. Earlier yesterday, the court had deferred the pronouncement of quantum of sentence for today. All five accused were found guilty by the Patna court on May 25.

On Thursday, Special NIA Judge Manoj Kumar Sinha after hearing arguments from the prosecution, which pressed for severe punishment to the convicts, and counter- arguments from the defence side, posted the matter for hearing on Friday.

Special Public Prosecutor Lalan Kumar Sinha said all five convicts – Imtiyaz Ansari, Haider Ali, Mujib Ullah, Omair Siddiqui and Azharuddin Qureishi – should be awarded imprisonment for life. He argued that the blasts triggered at a world-renowned pilgrim spot could have caused “heavy casualties, leading to national and international ramifications”.

On July 7, 2013, the Mahabodhi temple in Bodh Gaya was rocked by at least 10 bomb blasts soon after the morning prayers. A total of 13 bombs were planted, out of which 10 exploded. Three bombs were seized and defused. No deaths were recorded in the blasts, though some people, including Buddhist monks, had sustained injuries in the series of explosions.

Defence counsel Surya Prakash Singh, however, repudiated the prosecution’s arguments, saying the explosions “were nothing more than a protest against atrocities on Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar by the Buddhist majority”. He added, “Had the intention been to cause casualties, bombs would not have been planted at secluded spots and timer would not have been fixed at 5 am, when very few people were likely to be present at the Bodhi temple.”

In addition to the five convicts, another accused, Taufiq Ahmed, was held guilty in the case by a juvenile court in October last year and sent to remand home for three years.

All the six are also facing trial along with others in the Patna blasts case of 2013.

A series of bombs had exploded at a massive election rally of the then Gujarat chief minister and now Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Of the estimated 3,00,000 participants at the “Hunkar” rally, six people were killed and 89 others injured in the blasts.

(Inputs from Agencies)