Mumbai: Six men, convicted in Akshardham temple terror attack of Sep 24, 2002, but acquitted of all charges by the Supreme Court last week, Monday demanded compensation, rehabilitation and punishment to officials who falsely implicated them in the case.
The convicts who have been acquitted are Chand Khan, 35, a mechanic from Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly, Adam Ajmeri, 45, and Mufti Abdul Qayyum, 37, both residents of Ahmedabad. They were convicted and sentenced to death earlier.
Besides, there were other three other Ahmedabad residents – Mohammed Altaf, 30, a shopkeeper working in Saudi Arabia, who was given five years’ sentence which he completed, Mohammed Salim, 37, a tailor also working in Saudi Arabia, and Maulvi Abdulla, 55, a cleric. The last two were sentenced to 10 years jail each.
Addressing a press conference here, they unitedly demanded that the Gujarat government and then chief minister Narendra Modi – who headed the home department – should adequately compensate them for the long periods of incarceration they wrongly suffered.
“I had been working in Saudi Arabia for 13 years and I was arrested under pretext of some problem with my passport. The security officers brutally beat me up… fractured my foot. They gave me options on which case I wanted to be charged under – the Akshardham Temple terror case, Haren Pandya murder case, or the Godhra train carnage,” claimed Salim.
“Our lives have been totally ruined because of this case. Our families were hounded. We have nothing in life and have to start from scratch at this age. The time lost in jail will never return, now the state government must at least give us suitable compensation for the manner in which we were wrongly implicated,” pleaded Maulvi Abdulla.
Mufti Qayyum said that all the six acquitted accused are consulting lawyers to file cases in the Gujarat courts seeking compensation as well as punishment for all the police officials who slapped false cases against them, tortured and incarcerated them all these years before the apex court acquitted them honourably.
Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra (AM) legal cell secretary Gulzar Azmi, which provided free legal aid to all the accused, said that now it is the turn of the security officials who acted illegally against these six acquitted people to answer in courts.
“Not only should they be booked, they should be prosecuted so that an example is set for all such security officials booking innocent Muslim youth and ruining their lives forever,” Azmi said.
Last week, allowing the convicts’ pleas against the conviction and sentencing in the case, a Supreme Court bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice V.G. Gowda Friday held that the prosecution failed to establish their guilt beyond reasonable doubt and they deserved exoneration from all charges.
The apex court also nixed the confessional statements of the convicts as being invalid in law and said the prosecution could not establish that they participated in any conspiracy.
The convicts said they were arrested after investigations conducted by then Deputy Superintendent of Police D.G. Vanzara, who is now facing trial in the Sohrabuddin staged killing case.
On Sep 24, 2002, two terrorists fired indiscriminately from their AK-56 assault rifles and lobbed hand grenades in the Akshardham Temple complex in Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar.
At least 33 people were killed and over 80 injured before the National Security Guard commandos managed to gun down the attackers.