Rohit Bhan, NDTV.COM
Saturday, July 1, 2006 (Ahmedabad):
A special POTA court inside the high security Sabarmati prison has sentenced three people to death for the attack on the Akshardham temple in 2002.
While pronouncing the judgement, Judge Sonia Gokani termed it as the rarest of rare cases and said the charges against Adam Ajmeri, Abdul Qayoom and Chand Khan were serious enough to warrant a death sentence.
Of the other three found guilty, one has been sentenced to a life term while the other two have got 10 and five years in jail.
They have been charged under several sections of the IPC and Arms Act and accused of conspiring to wage a war against the country.
However, 26 others, also alleged to be part of the conspiracy, are still missing.
"These three accused had played a major role in the attack and there was overwhelming evidence against them," said Sudhir Brahmabhatt, Public Prosecutor.
Two Pakistani terrorists had stormed the Akshardham temple on September 24, 2002, killing 28 devotees on the spot.
Later, five others, including an NSG commando, succumbed to their injuries in hospital.
According to the police, Jaish-e-Mohammad terrorist Abu Hamza, who lives in Riyadh, had masterminded the attack in an attempt to avenge the Gujarat riots.
He had used operatives in Ahmedabad to carry out his plan and it is these local operatives who were sentenced today. Their relatives maintain that they are innocent.
"My brother was offering namaaz when he was picked up by the police and charged with false cases," said Mohammad Qadir, relative of the convict.
But those who lost their relatives in the attack feel the punishment is inadequate. "The others should have got stronger punishment," said Rakesh Hathi, victim's relative.
The High Court will now have to ratify the POTA court's verdict, after which the convicts can appeal against the sentence in the High Court.