MUMBAI - The prosecution will advocate the noose but the defence will argue for life sentence Tuesday when a special court pronounces the quantum of sentence for the husband-wife team and their aide convicted for the August 2003 twin bombings in Mumbai.
Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) Special Judge M.R. Puranik had found Mohammed Hanif Sayed, his wife Fahimida M. H. Sayed and their associate Ashrat Shafique Ansari guilty of carrying out the Aug 25, 2003, blasts in Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazar in which 54 people were killed and 244 injured.
The special judge is expected to announce the sentence in the verdict after the prosecution and defence argue on the quantum of punishment for the guilty tomorrow.
“This is a major jolt for the LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) 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 against them, we shall seek the most stringent - death penalty - for the accused,” prosecution lawyer Ujjwal Nikam said last week.
The defence lawyers, however, are adopting different strategies.
Ashrat’s lawyer S. Kunjuraman said that he would “remain totally silent” in the court.
“This is a baseless and meaningless judgement. There is not an iota of evidence against my client (Ashrat) to hold him guilty. I shall move the Bombay High Court, whatever be the outcome tomorrow,” Kunjuraman told IANS.
The Sayeds laywer Wahab Khan said he would strongly oppose the prosecution plea for death penalty and push for life sentences.
“Our contention is that this is not the rarest of rare cases, so it does not warrant the death penalty. My clients had no personal grudge against any of the victims in the incidents, they were simply misguided and indoctrinated,” Khan told IANS.
Irrespective of the outcome, Khan said he would move the high court in appeal against the POTA Special Court judgement after consulting his clients.
Last Monday, the curtains fell on the six-year long Mumbai twin blasts case of Aug 25, 2003. The twin blasts conspiracy was hatched in Dubai and carried out by Zahid Yusuf Patni, the chief of a LeT module in Mumbai named ‘Gujarat Revenge Force’. He later turned approver in the case.
The terror attacks 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.
Two other accused Rizwan Laddowala and A. Shaikh Batterywala, were acquitted by the Supreme Court for lack of evidence after a POTA review committee recommended their discharge from the case. The duo was accused of connecting the timer with the detonator and prepared the other electrical circuits used in the deadly bombs.
Another prime accused and the mastermind behind the blasts, Nazir, was shot dead in a police encounter in Matunga, central Mumbai in September 2003.
The Sayeds minor daughter Farheen, though involved in the operation, was not charged under POTA and was discharged from the case a few years ago, according to Kunjuraman.