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Thursday 29 September 2016

24 convicted over 2002 religious riots in western India

Published 02/06/2016 | 08:16

An unidentified Indian man accused over the 2002 riot case waves to supporters as he arrives at Ahmadabad's court (AP)
An unidentified Indian man accused over the 2002 riot case waves to supporters as he arrives at Ahmadabad's court (AP)

An Indian court has convicted 24 suspects, 11 of them for murder, for their part in religious riots in 2002 in western India.

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Special Court Judge PB Desai said that their sentences will be announced next week. Those convicted of murder could be sentenced to death.

The judge acquitted 36 charged in connection with the rioting in Ahmadabad, the main city in Gujarat state, in which 69 people - including former Congress politician Ehsan Jafri - were killed by a Hindu mob.

The riots were triggered when Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu nationalists, killing 60.

More than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in three months of violence that hit the state after that.

A prominent Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Bipin Patel, was acquitted because of a lack of evidence.

Mr Jafri's widow, Zakia, welcomed the verdicts, but was upset at the 36 acquittals.

"This verdict is half justice to me," she said.

India's judicial system is notorious for its delays. The first high-profile convictions from the 2002 riots came 10 years later when Maya Kodnani - a former government minister - and 31 others were convicted on charges ranging from rioting to murder - stemming from an attack in a small industrial town on the outskirts of Ahmadabad that killed 95 people.

Ms Kodnani, who was sentenced to 28 years in prison, has been free on bail while her appeal is being heard by a higher court.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state's chief minister at that time of the riots, and Muslim leaders and human rights groups say Mr Modi and his Hindu nationalist government did little to stop the violence, which he has denied.

India's Supreme Court has said it has found no evidence to prosecute him for the violence.

Press Association

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