MUMBAI - A Mumbai couple and their associate were Monday convicted by a special court of triggering the Aug 25, 2003 twin blasts which killed 54 people and injured 244 more at Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar here.
The three main accused — Mohammed Hanif Sayed, 42, Fahmida Mohammed Sayed, 36, and their close aide Ashrat Shafique Ansari, 32 — were found guilty by the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) Special Judge M.R. Puranik. They will be sentenced Aug 4.
The fourth accused, Zahid Yusuf Patni, who was the chief of a Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) module named Gujarat Revenge Force through which he hatched the conspiracy in Dubai, had turned approver in the case.
The Sayeds’ minor daughter Farheen, though involved in the twin bombings, was not charged under POTA and was discharged from the case a few years ago, said defence lawyer S. Kunjuraman.
The terror attacks on Aug 25, 2003, shook the tourist hub of Gateway of India and the congested Zaveri Bazar, the hub of the gold jewellery business in south Mumbai.
The bombings were carried out ostensibly to “avenge” the death of Muslims killed during the 2002 Gujarat riots that broke out in the wake of the Godhra train burning on Feb 27 that year.
According to Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam: “This (the judgement) is a major jolt for the LeT and it is the first time in India that a family has been found guilty of carrying out terrorist operations.”
In view of the serious charges, the prosecution would seek the most stringent punishment of death for the guilty, he said.
Two other accused in the case, Rizwan Laddowala and A. Shaikh Batterywala, were acquitted by the Supreme Court for lack of evidence after a POTA review committee had recommended their discharge. The duo was accused of connecting the timer with the detonator and of preparing the other electrical circuits used in the deadly bombs.
Another prime accused and the mastermind behind the blasts, Nazir, was shot dead in a gunfight with police at Matunga in central Mumbai in September 2003.
Four cases, in which 101 witnesses were examined, were simultaneously filed against all the accused.
These were the blast at Gateway of India; the Zaveri Bazaar; the July 28, 2003, explosion outside the Ghatkopar railway station in which two people were killed; the fourth case pertained to the planting of a bomb in a public (BEST) bus on Dec 2, 2003 at the Special Electronics Export Promotion Zone (SEEPZ) in Andheri East that failed to explode.
According to Nikam, the “handlers” of the accused were not happy with the blast in Ghatkopar and the failed blast attempt in Andheri East and wanted to do something bigger.
“They hatched a conspiracy in Dubai to carry out the Mumbai twin blasts in which RDX was used to cause maximum deaths and damage,” he said.
This was most awaited judgement in a terror attack case in the city since the special TADA court completed the March 12, 1993 serial blasts trial in 2007. That led to the conviction of 100 people, including Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt.
Nikam was the prosecutor in both cases.