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After 24 years, seven key accused in 1993 blasts face judgement day today

After 24 years, seven key accused in 1993 blasts face judgement day today

A Special Terrorism And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court will Friday pronounce judgment against seven accused for the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts, which killed 257 and injured 713.

The accused — Mustafa Dossa, Abu Salem, Feroz Abdul Rashid Khan, Taher Merchant, Riyaz Siddiqui, Abdul Qayyum Shaikh and Karimullah Khan — face charges including criminal conspiracy, waging war against the Government of India and murder under Sections of the Indian Penal Code, under the now repealed TADA Act, and under relevant Sections of the Indian Explosives Act and Explosive Substances Act.

In the dock is a second batch of accused, tried by special judge Govind A Sanap, after the main trial of 123 accused ended in 2006 with the conviction of 100. If convicted, all the seven could face the gallows.

Others whose fates hang in the balance include Feroz Khan, Taher Merchant, Riyaz Siddiqui, Karimulla Khan and Qayoom Shaikh. Special CBI counsel Deepak 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, Friday's 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.

Salem was extradited in November 2005 from Portugal. His confession led to the arrests of Siddiqui and Shaikh. Mustafa was named in 1995 by a co-accused and arrested in 2003 after he arrived in Delhi from Dubai.

The CBI submitted the attacks were planned to avenge the demolition of the Babri Masjid on December 6, 1992, and the riots in its aftermath.

The lesser known Taher (60) also has a predominant role. A resident of Kambekar Street in central Mumbai, he grew up with Dawood and his brothers and was said to be the don's trusted aide. He allegedly motivated associates to arrange men from Mumbai for training in handling of arms and ammunition in Pakistan. Taher is also accused of collecting funds to procure arms and ammunition.

He was extradited from Abu Dhabi in 2010. The 12 coordinated attacks between 1.30 pm and 3.40 pm on March 12, 1993, planned over 15 meetings across UAE and India, also destroyed property worth Rs 27 crore. Special CBI counsel Deepak Salvi told the court in his opening arguments that "this was the first ever terrorist attack in the world where RDX was used on such a large scale after the Second World War."

Special judge Sanap took over the trial in 2011 and the proceedings concluded in March this year.

The trial was stayed after both the accused and the prosecution moved the apex court challenging various legalities. Dossa's lawyer Rizwan Merchant challenged the applicability of the voluminous evidence of 686 witnesses from the previous trial.

On Friday, security will be beefed up across the court premises and entry to the court room will be restricted.

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