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February 2, 2000
Purulia arms drop convicts get rigorous life imprisonment
Mohammad Javed R in Calcutta
All the six foreigners convicted in the Purulia arms drop case were sentenced to rigorous life imprisonment today by the Calcutta civil and sessions court.
They have also been fined Rs 60,000 each for crimes under the Indian Explosives Act 1954, the Aircraft Act and the Arms Act.
Judge P K Biswas observed that rigorous punishment was necessary to prevent the convicts from repeating the offence and deter others from emulating them.
The euphoric public prosecutor Sisir Ghosh later told reporters that the Central Bureau of Investigation's stand had been vindicated. "Never before in India's history has such a remarkable judgment been pronounced. That the court deemed it fit to sentence Peter Bleach and his five associates to rigorous imprisonment shows the foreigners weren't charged on false grounds as was alleged by the Latvians' counsel."
Asked why Kim Davy, prime accused in the case, is still at large, CBI officer Loknath Behera told rediff.com that he had offered to surrender to the authorities in Denmark, but in two different cases of robbery in that country.
Davy had escaped the police dragnet at Bombay airport in 1995 soon after his plane had been forced to land there. Since then, he has been absconding. He cannot be extradited if he surrenders in Denmark because India does not have an extradition treaty with that country.
But the CBI has still made no progress in finding out the real motive for the huge cache of arms being dropped in Purulia. Behera said the agency would not be able to comment on this aspect until Davy is brought to India and interrogated.
So will Davy's arrest open a Pandora's box? "There is nothing like a Pandora's box," said Ghosh. "Most of the mysteries relating to the arms dropping have been cleared. Of the 300 witnesses, as many as 140 were produced in court. It's only you reporters who appear hell-bent on giving the case a mysterious look."
Shyamal Ghosh, counsel for the Latvians, termed the judgment unfortunate and said he would go in appeal to the Calcutta high court. Bleach too said he would appeal against the verdict within a week.
Karina Maselenco, a member of the International Human Rights Commission, was scathing in her criticism of the verdict. "It is extremely unfortunate," she told rediff.com "All I can say is that the entire judgment is a result of a judicial mistake. The court shouldn't have been so cruel while pronouncing the verdict."
While Bleach appeared calm and unruffled by the judgment, a tinge of pain was evident on the faces of the Latvians. They even pleaded with the judge not to sentence them to life imprisonment since their wives back home are unemployed. But their emotional pleas failed to impress Judge Biswas.
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