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Mecca Masjid Blast: Aseemanand, 4 other accused acquitted by NIA court; Owaisi says justice not done

Five accused, including right-wing activist Swami Aseemanand, were on Monday acquitted by a special anti-terror court in Hyderabad in the 2007 case of Mecca Masjid blast which claimed nine lives.

Acquitting the accused, the special NIA court said that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.

The blast at the historic Mecca Masjid on May 18, 2007 during Friday prayers had also left 58 others injured. Ten persons allegedly belonging to right-wing organisations were named as accused in the case.

However, only five of them — Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Swami Aseemanand alias Naba Kumar Sarkar, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary – were arrested and faced trial in the case.

Two other accused — Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra — are still absconding while another accused Sunil Joshi died. Investigations were continuing against two other accused.

Aseemanand’s counsel, J P Sharma, told reporters after the verdict by a metropolitan court for NIA cases that “The prosecution failed to prove allegations against the five accused who faced trial in the case and hence the court acquitted them,”

Reacting to the acquittal of all accused, former bureaucrat RVS Mani said he was not surprised by the verdict as he had expected this.

“I had expected it. All the pieces of evidence were engineered, otherwise, there was no Hindu terror angle,” Mani, former Under Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs, said.

“People who perpetrated attack were protected through misuse of agency (NIA), this is what is alarming. How do you compensate those who suffered and were maligned? Will Congress or anyone else who propagated this theory compensate them?” he asked.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) chief Asaduddin Owaisi said that NIA didn’t pursue the case as was expected from it. “Justice has not been done,” the Hyderabad MP said.

“NIA and Modi govt didn’t even appeal against bail that was given to accused within 90 days. This was a complete biased investigation which will weaken our resolve to fight,” he tweeted.

Senior Congress leader Ashok Gehlot refused to comment on the verdict and left it up to the government to file an appeal.

“It is now up to the government to examine order and decide if a further appeal is required. As it is a judicial matter I would not like to comment on it,” he said.

The BJP sought an apology from the Congress party for “defaming” Hindu religion.

“For few votes, the way the Congress party acted to defame the Hindu religion, Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi should ask for forgiveness from the whole country,” BJP spokesperson Sambit Patra said.

“BJP does not comment on the judgement of the court. We don’t comment on working of the Indian judiciary. It’s an independent body. Congress said the court was right at the time of 2G Verdict but labelling it wrong today,” he said.

The fourth additional metropolitan sessions-cum-special court for NIA cases had concluded the trial and last week posted the case for judgement on April 16.

After initial investigation by the local police, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau Of Investigation (CBI), which filed a charge sheet. Timeline of events

Subsequently, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) took over the case from the CBI in 2011. A total of 226 witnesses were examined during the trial and as many as 411 documents were exhibited.

Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar are out on bail while three others are lodged in the central prison here under judicial remand.

In March 2017, a court in Rajasthan had sentenced Gupta and another convict to life in jail in the Ajmer Dargah blast case.

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