A Hyderabad metropolitan court on Monday sentenced two terrorists, convicted of killing 44 people and wounding 68 others in two coordinated blasts in the city in 2007, to death.
The court also convicted another person of harbouring the perpetrators in the national capital and other places, and awarded him life imprisonment.
The special court set up inside the Cherlapalli Central Prison here heard the arguments of the prosecution and defence counsel on the quantum of sentence and awarded death penalty to Aneeq Shafique Sayeed and Mohammed Akbar Ismail Chowdhari.
On September 4, Second Additional Metropolitan Sessions Judge (in-charge) T Srinivas Rao had pronounced Sayeed and Chowdhari guilty in the 11-year-old case, but acquitted Farooq Sharfuddin Tarkash and Mohammed Sadiq Israr Ahmed Shaik for want of sufficient evidence.
Sayeed and Chawdhari, who were sentenced to death, were found guilty under section 302 (murder) and other relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code, and anti-terror law--Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Special Public Prosecutor C Seshu Reddy, who represented the counter intelligence wing of Telangana Police, which investigated the case, said.
According to another Public Prosecutor K Surender, Aneeq and Chowdhari were found guilty of carrying out the blasts at Gokul Chaat and Lumbini Park, and also in connection with the recovery of an unexploded bomb from under a foot overbridge in Dilsukh Nagar area.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs 10,000 on the duo under different counts.
The court held the fifth accused Tarik Anjum, charged with harbouring some of the perpetrators in New Delhi and other places, on Monday, and handed him life imprisonment.
Two synchronised blasts had rocked Gokul Chaat, a popular eatery, killing 32 people and leaving 47 injured, and an open air theatre in Lumbini Park close to the state secretariat where 12 people died and 21 wounded.
Three other accused named in the charge sheets, including 'Indian Mujahideen' founder Riyaz Bhatkal, his brother Iqbal, and Amir Reza Khan are absconding.
The Bhatkal brothers of Karnataka are believed to have taken shelter in Pakistan.
During the arguments on the quantum of punishment, the convicts pleaded innocence and insisted they were falsely implicated in the case, the prosecutors said, adding the judge rejected their pleas to reduce their sentence.
The convicts are free to appeal against their sentence in a higher court.
Reddy said the prosecutors will take a call on whether to appeal the acquittal of two accused after going through the detailed order of the court.
The prosecution, he said, could not conclusively prove the charge that those convicted belonged to the banned Indian Mujahideen. The court, however, accepted the prosecution's contention that they had formed a group and committed terrorist acts.
In December 2016, five alleged operatives of Indian Mujahideen, including the terror outfit's co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and a Pakistani national, were awarded death penalty by a special National Investigation Agency court in Hyderabad in the February 2013 Hyderabad bomb blasts which claimed 18 lives.
'They should be hanged immediately'
"They should be hanged immediately," said an emotional Syed Raheem reacting to the court order sentencing the two terrorists.
Raheem, who lost an eye in the blast at Gokul Chat, said the government should ensure that the punishment is implemented immediately.
"Even higher court or the President of India should not entertain their mercy petition," he said, vehemently.
Many people died and many more were injured in the blast, he said.
"People like me are still suffering and not able to overcome the trauma," Raheem said.
Raheem, who was into printing business, had gone out to buy ice cream for his daughter when the blast occurred. He lost one eye and is still suffering from vision problems.
"Justice has been done, but it is delayed," said M A Venkatesh, principal, Amrutavahini College of Engineering in Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra which lost seven of its students in the blast that took place at Lumbini Park.
Over 50 students of the college were in Hyderabad as part of an educational tour on August 25, 2007.
"... We cannot bring back those precious lives. No amount of punishment can compensate the ordeal that the parents of the students underwent," Venkatesh told PTI.
B Anjaiah, who lost his daughter and two other relatives in the blast, said the police should nab the two other accused who are said to be absconding.
Premchand Vijayvargiya, a promoter of Gokul Chat at Koti, said whatever punishment was pronounced 'is justified'.
Four of his relatives and two of his workers were injured in the blast.