Court frees Aseemanand
Hyderabad: A special anti-terror court on Monday acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove "even a single allegation" against them, lawyers said. A powerful blast, triggered by remote control, had ripped through the over four centuries-old mosque here during an assembly of devotees on May 18, 2007 when they had gathered for Friday prayers, killing nine people and wounding 58.
"Prosecution (NIA) could not prove even a single allegation against any of the accused and all of them stand acquitted," J P Sharma, the counsel for Assemanand, told reporters quoting special judge for NIA cases K Ravinder Reddy who delivered the verdict amid tight security. Media was barred entry in the courtroom during the pronouncement of the judgement in the high-profile case, dubbed as one of "Hindu terror", a term that riled the BJP and saffron organisations no end.
Aseemanand was acquitted last year in the 2007 Ajmer Dargah terror attack. He is an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta blasts case. Apart from him, those acquitted are — Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary. Though there were 10 accused in the case, only these five were tried. Two other accused — Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra — were absconding, while Sunil Joshi was murdered. Investigation is continuing against two others.
The bomb had exploded in an area of the mosque where devotees performed ablutions. Two more Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were later found and defused by the police. The incident had triggered violent protests and riots, prompting police action in which five more people were killed.
Buoyed by the verdict, the BJP claimed that it had "exposed" the Congress' "appeasement politics", while the latter raised questions about the functioning of the NIA. BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra alleged that the Congress has long "defamed" Hindus for votes and demanded that party president Rahul Gandhi and his predecessor Sonia Gandhi apologise for using terms like "saffron terror" and "Hindu terror".
Congress leader Ghulam Nabi Azad said, "It (acquittal) is happening in each case since the government was formed four years ago...people are losing faith in the agencies." AIMIM president Asaduddin Owaisi claimed that the NIA did not properly pursue the case, leading to the acquittal of the accused.