Aseemanand acquitted in Ajmer blast case; 3 guilty

Aseemanand acquitted in Ajmer blast case; 3 guilty

A special court on Wednesday acquitted Hindu religious leader Aseemanand and six others, while convicting three men in the 2007 Ajmer dargah blast case.

The blast, on October 11, 2007, left three persons dead and 15 wounded. The quantum of sentence will be pronounced on March 16.

National Investigation Agency’s special court judge Dinesh Kumar Gupta pronounced the judgement, in which Sunil Joshi, Bhavesh Patel and Devendra Gupta were held guilty. Joshi, one of the key accused and a former RSS pracharak, died on December 29, 2007.

The three were held guilty of damaging a place of worship (IPC Section 295) and criminal conspiracy, as well as under sections of the Explosive Substances Act, 1908, and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967. The nine surviving accused were present in the court. Another religious leader, Bharatmohan Lal, is among those acquitted.

The other acquitted are Harshad alias Munna, Lokesh Sharma, Chandra Shekhar, Mafat alias Mehul and Mukesh.

Public prosecutor Ashwani K Sharma later told reporters that NIA had received a setback with 26 witnesses, who were the backbone of the case, turning hostile during the trial.

Judge Gupta let off Swami Aseemanand and the others, giving them “benefit of doubt”.

Aseemanand is also an accused in the 2007 Samjhauta Express blast, in which 68 people were killed. He is a member of the right-wing Hindu group Abhinav Bharat. He has been in jail since December 2010 and was also named as an accused in the 2007 Hyderabad Mecca Masjid blast case.

The trial involved the examination of 149 witnesses and 449 documents. Over the past nine years, the hearing was postponed multiple times as the witnesses made applications delaying their appearance before the court, citing threat to their lives.

The blast inside the Sufi shrine of Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti took place on October 11 during iftar. Being Ramadan, the shrine was jam-packed with around 7,000 devotees.

The case was handed over to the Rajasthan anti-terrorism squad and later transferred to the NIA on April 6, 2011. The NIA filed three supplementary charge sheets after examining the witnesses and documents related to the case.

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