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Maudhany freed, Basha found guilty in Coimbatore blasts case

V.S. Palaniappan

Special Court clears PDP leader of all charges; 152 others also held guilty

— PHOTO: K. ANANTHAN

free at last: PDP leader Abdul Nasser Maudhany coming out of the Coimbatore Central Prison in a van after the special court cleared him of all charges in the 1998 serial blasts case.

Coimbatore: Al-Umma founder S.A. Basha and 152 others were found guilty in the 1998 Coimbatore serial bomb blasts case by a Special Court here on Wednesday. But the founder of the Kerala-based People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Abdul Nasser Maudhany, was acquitted of all charges.

Judge K. Uthirapathy is expected to begin sentencing of the convicted from August 16.

Besides Mr. Maudhany, seven others were acquitted. The verdict in respect of five other accused was deferred for modification of the charges against them.

The blasts on February 14, 1998, timed to coincide with the visit of Bharatiya Janata Party leader L.K. Advani to the city for electioneering, left 58 persons dead and more than 250 injured.

The court found 69 accused guilty of the offence under Section 120-B (conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). The other charge proved against some of the accused was under Section 153 A (1) of the IPC (promoting communal hatred between different groups on grounds of religion).

Eighty-four persons were found guilty of the charges under the Explosive Substances Act, the Arms Act and the Tamil Nadu Properties (Prevention of Damages and Loss) Act.

Of the 181 accused of involvement in the serial blasts, eight died in police firing and in a storming operation on a suspected hideout. The police are still hunting for Nohu, Kunju Mohammed, Mujibur Rehman and Tailor Raja. Another accused S.K. Mohideen was arrested only recently. Of the 168 arrested, Riaz-ur-Rehman turned approver and Mohammed Dasthagir died in custody.

The 166 accused included Al-Umma General Secretary Mohammed Ansari, Tajudeen, Nawab Khan (Basha’s brother), Bashid, Abdul Ozir, Siddiq Ali (Basha’s son), Zakir Hussain and five members of a suicide squad.

The judge held that all the five charges against Mr. Maudhany had not been proved.

The accused, against whom major charges had not been proved and proved charges would attract only lesser punishment, could move bail applications on August 6, he said.

The defence pointed out that the court could grant them bail as the period for which they had been in jail could be set off against the sentence.

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