Five key operatives of Indian Mujahideen, including the banned terror outfit’s co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and a Pakistani national, were on Monday awarded the death penalty by a Special National Investigation Agency Court in the February 2013 Hyderabad bomb blasts which claimed 18 lives.
Pronouncing the sentence, Judge T Srinivasa Rao described the case as the “rarest of the rare”.
This is the first case where operatives of the home-grown group have been convicted in a terror case.
NIA Special Public Prosecutor K Surender said the court, after going through their evidence, found that the case is based on facts.
“As per investigation... evidence that is placed on record clearly reflects that the five IM members planned and executed the bomb blasts. We sought capital punishment (for the convicts) and accordingly the court gave death penalty to them,” he said.
The prosecutor described the verdict as a “victory” for NIA’s investigation and the witnesses.
The court, after hearing the arguments of prosecution and defence counsels on sentencing, awarded death penalty to the convicts and also varying jail terms on different counts including, waging war against the government of India and
commission of terrorist act.
On December 13, the court had convicted the five operatives -- IM co-founder Mohd Ahmed Sidibapa alias Yasin Bhatkal, Pakistani national Zia-ur-Rahman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar alias Monu and Ajaz Shaikh -- who are at present in judicial custody and lodged in the Cherlapally Central Prison in Hyderabad.
The IM convicts said they will go for an appeal, according to the NIA counsel.
All relevant records will be submitted in the high court for confirmation of the death sentence, Surender said.
Eighteen people were killed and 131 injured in two deadly explosions in Dilsukhnagar, a crowded shopping area in the city, on February 21, 2013.
On November 7, the final arguments had concluded in the case before the special court.
Since IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal, the prime accused in the case, is absconding, the trial was split up against him.
The court convicted Yasin Bhatkal and others under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Arms Act, Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
According to NIA, Riyaz Bhatkal arranged for explosive substances and directed Asadullah Akhtar and Zia-ur-Rahman at Mangalore to receive the same.
After receiving the explosive materials and the money sent by Riyaz through hawala (illegal channels) and other money transfer modes, Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas reached Hyderabad and joined Tahseen Akhtar, who was already hiding there, NIA had said.
Together they prepared two IEDs after procuring the other required material as well as two cycles for mounting the home-made bombs from Hyderabad, the anti-terror agency had said.
After preparation of the IEDs on February 21, 2013, the accused mounted two bombs on the bicycles. They had planted them at separate places in Dilsukhnagar which resulted in powerful explosions, it had said.
In its chargesheet, the NIA had claimed that Indian Mujahideen had hatched a conspiracy to wage a war against India and decided to carry out bomb blasts in Hyderabad to create terror in the mind of people and further the activities of the outfit.
The main feature of the conspiracy was that the accused were communicating through the Internet, chatting with each other throughout the planning, finding suitable hideouts, purchasing material for the bombs, until the final escape, it said.
They were also found to have used proxy servers to hide their identity, it said.
The role of Yasin Bhatkal in the planning, procurement of explosives and harbouring of Asadullah Akhthar after the incident, was also unearthed by the NIA, the agency said.
During investigation, a total of 440 witnesses were examined and 251 documents and 300 material objects seized. Extensive cyber forensic evidence was gathered and placed on record, according to the agency.
Meanwhile, the counsel for the IM operatives said he will file an appeal before the high court against the conviction of his clients after obtaining a certified copy of the judgment.
“I have received instruction to file (an appeal) from them (the convicts) and their relatives,” defence counsel Mahadevan said.