A special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA) court on Thursday awarded death sentence to Tahir Merchant and Feroz Khan in connection with the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts. The court awarded life imprisonment to Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan along with a fine of Rs 2 lakhs, while Riyaz Ahmed Siddique received a sentence of 10 years.
The court had convicted six terrorists – Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa, Firoz Khan, Mohammed Tahir Merchant alias Tahir Taklya, Karimullah Khan and Riyaz Ahmed Siddique in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.
Dossa died on June 28, just a few days after being convicted. The case against him has been closed. In 1993, 12 serial blasts rocked Mumbai that killed 257 and injured over 700 people. The incident introduced Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon to the world.
Dawood soon became India’s most wanted man. His name also features prominently the ‘most wanted’ lists of the US and the Interpol. The Mumbai-blasts is the first terrorist attack in the world where RDX was used.
Abu Salem has been in jail for the last 15 years. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had requested life imprisonment for Abu Salem and another terrorist and death sentence for three.
The sentencing comes after extensive arguments were made by the prosecution and defence since June 16 when the court had convicted Salem, Merchant, Feroze and Karimullah on charges of criminal conspiracy , murder and indulging in acts of terrorism that cause death. Siddiqui was found guilty on the lesser charge for abetting and aiding terrorism.
While CBI special public prosecutor Deepak Salvi sought the death sentence for Merchant, Feroze and Karimullah, he pressed for life sentences against Salem and Merchant.
The charge against Salem could have attracted the maximum punishment. But since he was extradited from Portugal in 2005, a Lisbon court has held that he cannot be awarded death here. Salem, though his lawyer, has also argued that he cannot be jailed for more than 25 years as assured by the Indian government.
Key conspirator Mustafa Dosa, 60, against whom Salvi had also sought the death penalty, died pending sentencing. The case against him has since abated and there will be no sentence pronounced against him. Qayyum Shaikh, 64, behind bars for almost 11 years, was acquitted for lack of evidence. This trial of seven was the second in the 1993 case.
The main trial of 123 accused ended in 2006 with the conviction of 100. Yakub Memon, brother of prime absconding accused Tiger Memon, was hanged in 2015, and the others have served or are serving time.
Salvi said trial for the seven, arrested between 2003 and 2010, had to be separated as they were nabbed after a substantial portion of the previous trial was completed. With no other accused currently in custody, the verdict will be the last in the case for now. Thirty-three accused are absconding, including key conspirators Dawood Ibrahim, his brother Anees Ibrahim, Mustafa’s brother Mohammed Dossa and Tiger Memon.
Condemning both, Merchant and Karimullah, for being “main conspirators” in the Mumbai blasts of ’93, Salvi stressed on how Merchant “worked with Tiger Memon”. He backed his death plea by pointing to “anguish, agitation and frustration expressed by Taher Merchant due to the situation prevailing in Mumbai during the period riots in January, 1993.