Founder-leader of the banned Al-Umma, S A Basha and its general secretary, Mohammed Ansari were among 23 convicts, who were awarded life imprisonment for conspiring to eliminate Bharatiya Janata Party leader L K Advani during his visit to the city on February 14 1998, by triggering a series of bomb blasts, claiming 58 lives.
K Uthirapathi, judge of the special court hearing the bomb blast cases, who had on August one convicted 70 of the 166 accused on major charges of criminal conspiracy and murder, pronounced the sentences for 27 convicts till afternoon.
The judge sentenced 11 convicts to undergo life imprisonment for one term, 10 to a double life term, and awarded three life terms for one and four life terms for another for conspiracy and imprisonment ranging from three years to 125 years for various charges, while four others were awarded maximum 10 years for conspiracy and nine years to 70 years for different charges.
All have to undergo the sentences concurrently and since they were in jail for the last ten years, they can serve only the remaining period of life imprisonment.
Papers are being worked for remission for four, as they had undergone the sentence of 10 years, as undertrials. Accused number six, Ozir alias Abdul Ozir was awarded the maximum years of sentence--four life terms, for conspiracy and planting bombs at three places, and 124 years of imprisonment for various charges.
Basha, said to be the masterbrain behind the blasts, was awarded one term life imprisonment and three years RI, Ansari was given two life sentences and more than 70 years of sentence on various charges, to run concurrently.
Basha's son and accused number eight, Siddiq Ali was awarded two life terms, one proving guilty of conspiracy and another for planting explosives at a government hospital in Coimbatore, resulting in some deaths.
Besides serious charges of conspiracy and murder, the convicts were sentenced for two to 14 different charges like abatement for murder, promoting enmity between different communities, planting explosives at various places, including places of worship and transporting explosives.
The court has already released 86 persons, with minor charges, by setting off their sentence, ranging from 21 months to nine years, as they had served the term as undertrials.
Eight others, including Kerala-based PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madhani, were acquitted as charges against them were not proved.
The blasts left nearly 250 injured and caused a loss of property worth over Rs four crore.
Among the 168 arrested, majority of them owed allegiance to the Al-Umma, one had turned approver and another died while in custody.
The Special Investigation Team of Tamil Nadu CB-CID, which probed the cases, has argued that the blasts, carried out under the title 'Operation Allahu Akbar', was part of the conspiracy to eliminate Advani.
The trial began in March 2002, and arguments in June 2006. It was completed on April 10 last. About 1,300 witnesses out of a total 2,345 were examined.