Five IM operatives sentenced to death in Hyderabad blasts case

Hyderabad: A special NIA court here sentenced to death five convicts, including the banned Indian Mujahideen's (IM) co-founder Yaseen Bhatkal and a Pakistani national, in the 2013 Hyderabad bomb blasts.

Apart from Bhatkal alias Ahmed Siddibappa Zaraar, and Pakistani national Zia ur Rehman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahseen Akhtar alias Monu, and Aizaz Saeed Shaik alias Aijaz Shaikh were convicted by the court on December 13 for offences including waging war against the nation, criminal conspiracy and murder.

The twin blasts in Dilsukhnagar area on February 21, 2013, killed 18 persons, including one unborn child in mother's womb, and injured 131 others.

Public Prosecutor V. Surender Rao told reporters that based on the peculiar facts and circumstantial evidence, the judge concluded that the case fell in the category of "rarest of rare" case and the convicts deserve capital punishment.

The convicts said they will challenge the NIA court's order in the High Court and sought a copy of the judgement, the prosecutor said.

The death sentence was pronounced under sections 302 Aand 121 of Indian Penal Code, section 3B Explosive Substance Act and section 16 of Unlawful Activities Act.

Rao said the court would send the record to the high court and after it confirms the death sentence, it will be implemented. The convicts, however, will still have option to challenge it in Supreme Court and even seek President's pardon.

Tight security arrangements were made since morning at Cherlapally Jail, where the special court pronounced the judgement.

The public prosecutor said the court asked the convicts if they have anything to say but they just asked the judge to pronounce his sentence. After the sentence was pronounced, the convicts showed no emotion. "They were absolutely normal. They were not angry or showed any remorse or repentance," he said.

Earlier, the convicts submitted letters to the court stating that they have no confidence as the trial was conducted in a hasty manner.

After taking the letters into consideration, the judge pronounced the sentence. He found that the cruel act of the convicts fell in the "rarest of rare" case.

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) sought death penalty on the ground that the accused planned and executed bomb blasts, killing many people and later went on to carry out another bombing.

According to NIA, this is the first case in which any operative of the Indian Mujahideen have been convicted and sentenced.

The NIA counsel termed the verdict as a victory for investigations and for people who came out as witnesses. They include witnesses who recorded their statements regarding the stay of the accused in Mangluru, their visit to Hyderabad, stay in Qutbullapur on the city outskirts, purchase of pressure cookers and cycles.

Bhatkal is brother of Riyaz Bhatkal, the brain behind the blasts, who is absconding and suspected to be hiding in Pakistan. The NIA has already issued Interpol Red Corner notice for him.

The public prosecutor said NIA had collected evidence against Riyaz and once he is arrested, the record will be produced before the court.

Bhatkal brothers are from Bhatkal town of Karnataka, while Rehman is a resident of Mustafabad of Pakistan's Punjab province, Asadullah Akhtar from Uttar Pradesh while Tahseen Akhtar and Aizaz Saeed are residents of Bihar and Maharashtra respectively.

All five were convicted for offences including waging war against nation, criminal conspiracy and murder.

The investigating agency filed three charge sheets in the case. Charges were framed against the five accused on July 16, 2015 and the trial commenced on August 24 the same year.

The NIA said during the trial, the prosecution examined a total of 157 witnesses.

The twin blasts occurred within a distance of 100 metres at crowded places in shopping area Dilsukhnagar on the evening of February 21, 2013.