1st death sentences handed down in India blasts

/ Source: The Associated Press

Three Muslim men on Wednesday received the first death sentences for a series of bombs that ripped through India's financial capital in 1993, killing 257 people in the country's deadliest terrorist attack.

Parvez Shaikh, Mushtaq Tarani and Abdul Ghani Turk appeared calm as they were sentenced to death by Justice Pramod Kode. All three were convicted of planting explosives in Mumbai on March 12, 1993.

More than 100 people were convicted of involvement in the plot, thought to be an act of revenge for the demolition of a 16th century mosque by Hindu nationalists in northern India in 1992. After the demolition, religious riots erupted, leaving more than 800 dead, most of them Muslims.

Bombings ‘an act of a revenge’
"These acts have disgraced the Muslim religion," said Kode, rejecting their defense that the riots justified the attack. "It was an act of a revenge that was in no way affected by the riots. It unnecessarily created communal tension between Hindus and Muslims."

Shaikh was convicted of planting a scooter packed with explosives in a crowded Mumbai market and an explosives-filled suitcase in a city hotel.

Tarani placed a bomb inside a suitcase in a city hotel that caused extensive damage and planting a scooter with explosives in a crowded downtown street that did not detonate.

Kode singled out Turk, who parked a jeep packed with bombs near Mumbai's passport office. That explosion killed 88 people and injured 159 others.

"It was the most heinous crime," Kode said.

He also ordered the men to pay penalties ranging from about $6,700 to $14,600 for damage and destruction of property.

The men can appeal their sentences to the Supreme Court.

Dozens convicted in plot
Kode has so far sentenced 81 people since he began handing out sentences on May 18.

Fourteen men were given life sentences for their involvement and knowledge of the conspiracy that led to the 1993 series of bombings, while 64 others received sentences ranging between three and 10 years in prison.

However, these were the first death sentences in the case, which is nearing the end of one of India's longest and most closely watched trials. As many as 13 other bombers are awaiting sentencing. The prosecutor has asked for the death sentence for all of them.

Those convicted include gangsters, smugglers, fishermen, customs officers, police officials, homemakers and a famous Bollywood actor. Many were convicted in absentia.

Thirty-five suspects remain at large. Authorities say many are hiding in Pakistan, a charge Islamabad denies.