Mecca Masjid blast case: All 5 accused acquitted

Swami Aseemanand was among the five accused.

A special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) here on Monday acquitted all the five accused in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case.

Among the acquitted is Swami Aseemanand, a right-wing ideologue and a former RSS member.

The court found fault with the prosecution for not presenting satisfactory evidence. All the accused were present in the court at the time of the verdict.

On May 18, 2007, a powerful Improvised Explosive Device went off during the Friday prayers at the historic Mecca Masjid here killing nine and injuring 58 others.

Five people died in the police firing during the violence that followed soon after the blast. The police initially suspected the hand of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI), a fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and nabbed a few Muslim youth.

The role of Hindutva activists came to light after the probe was taken over by the CBI. The then undivided Andhra Pradesh government awarded compensation to 70 Muslims who were wrongly implicated.

Eight people from right-wing organisations, including Aseemanand, Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharatbhai and Rajender Chowdhary, were charged by the NIA in the case.

The court, however, delivered its verdict with regard to the five accused. One accused, Sunil Joshi, was murdered in December 2007 while Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra from Madhya Pradesh are absconding.

A total of 226 witnesses were examined during the trial and as many as 411 documents exhibited.

Aseemanand and Rateshwar are out on bail while three others are in the central prison in Hyderabad.

In March 2017, Aseemanand was acquitted in the Ajmer blast case. He is also facing trial in the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the 2007 Samjhauta Express blasts case.

On November 19, 2010, Aseemanand, who had been on the run since 2008, was arrested from Hardwar for his role in the blast. Aseemanand had submitted a signed declaration that he and several members of Abhinav Bharat had conspired and executed the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid.

Reacting to the court’s verdict, Hyderabad MP and president of Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi said that the majority of witnesses in the case had turned hostile after June 2014.

“The NIA did not pursue the case as it was expected from them. The NIA is guided by the political masters. It is a deaf and blind parrot. Our fight against terrorism is weakened after today’s acquittal,” Owaisi said.

Given the sensitive nature of the case, the police have created a security cordon around the Nampally courts and vigil has been increased around the mosque.

In all, 2000 police personnel have been deployed. The RAF and the Telangana Special Force have also been roped in.

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