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Diplomat's murder: J&K ultra freed in UK

By H S Rao in London
December 03, 2005 00:18 IST
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A British court on Thursday evening acquitted Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front extremist Mohammad Aslam Mirza of the murder of Birmingham-based Indian diplomat Ravindra Mhatre 21 years ago.

A jury at the Birmingham Crown Court also acquitted 50-year-old Mirza of the kidnap and false imprisonment of Mhatre.

The jury took just under five hours to deliver their verdicts after a trial lasting nine days.

Mirza, a British citizen, was originally arrested in Pennsylvania for staying in the US after expiry of his visa.

Through his fingerprints, however, he was identified as a member of the Jammu and Kashmir Liberation Front, wanted for the kidnap and murder of the Indian diplomat.

Mhatre was abducted and killed in an attempt to secure the release from prison of the group's founder Maqbool Bhat.

However, Mirza told the court he had no involvement whatsoever in the murder. He said he was appalled by the charges and had no recollection of events in 1984 due to severe memory problems.

Earlier, the court heard how Mhatre, who lived in Barley Green with his wife and children, had been snatched off a road, bundled in a car and taken to a makeshift prison at a house in Alum Rock.

Prosecutor William Davis said 48-year-old Mhatre was held there for two days until February 5, 1984.

"He was driven to a really remote spot in Leicestershire and in that isolated spot he was shot three times. In simple terms, he was executed in cold blood," he said.

Before his killing, letters demanding 1 million pounds ransom and release of the prisoner sentenced to death by Indian authorities were sent to the offices of news agencies in London, the prosecutor said.

Two men were convicted of the murder shortly afterwards.

However, the man believed to have actually shot Mhatre has never been caught.

During earlier hearing of the case, Prosecutor Davis said 'this case is about an act of terrorism, the killing of a man for supposed political ends as long ago as 1984'.

The court heard Mhatre lived in a modest home in Bartley Green, Birmingham, with his wife and children and traveled to and from the workplace in New Street by bus.

Davis said although Mirza, a member of Kashmir Jihad who was arrested in 2003, was not present at the scene, he was 'party' to the murder by taking part in the enterprise that led to Mhatre's death.

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H S Rao in London
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