All 5 accused in Hyd Mecca Masjid blast, including Aseemanand, acquitted
Eleven years after the Mecca Masjid bomb blast shook Hyderabad, an NIA special court in Nampally acquitted 5 accused in the case, including Aseemanand, citing lack of evidence.
Rajvardhan, a lawyer of the accused, came out of court and confirmed to the media that 5 accused had been acquitted.
According to media reports, the investigation agency listed 226 prosecution witnesses, of which 64 turned hostile, including Lieutenant Colonel Shrikanth Purohit, who was an accused in the 2008 Malegaon blast case.
The court saw a heavy deployment of security personnel and all the roads leading to Nampally Court were blocked.
Members of the media were allegedly manhandled by the police personnel outside the Nampally Court. Incensed, the media staged protests outside the court gates.
On May 18, 2007, members belonging to the Hindu militant outfit Abhinav Bharat had allegedly placed two bombs in Mecca Masjid, considered to be one of the holiest Muslim sites in the city.
They allegedly placed the bombs in the 17th century monument during Friday prayers, when thousands of people had gathered.
Nine persons were killed in the blast, and 58 others were injured.
As news of the blast spread, tension escalated in the Old City, especially in the areas around Charminar, with many people taking to the streets. They turned into vandalising mobs and clashed with the police.
Police resorted to lathi-charge, lobbing of teargas shells, and firing in the air. Five more people were killed in subsequent police firing near the mosque.
Arrest and release
Immediately after the blast, several people believed that the act of terror was carried out by a group called Harkat-ul-JIhad-al-Islami with the backing of Pakistan's Inter Services Intelligence (ISI).
The Hyderabad city police picked up a few Muslim youth on this line of investigation and allegedly tortured them for days and wrongly imprisoned them, before they were later acquitted by the court.
A fact-finding committee was formed by the National Minorities Commission which also submitted that the youth had been subjected to torture.
According to the report, the youth were blindfolded and bundled into cars before being taken to farmhouses where they were allegedly subjected to severe physical and mental torture.
Since then, the government has sanctioned sporadic compensation to several such youngsters.
As the city police failed to crack the crime, the case was transferred to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Picking up clues from the unexploded bombs found inside the Masjid, the CBI found that a group of right-wing terrorists were responsible the blast.
In 2010, the CBI traced the forensic evidence from the Improvised Explosive Device (IED) and arrested Lokesh Sharma and Devender Gupta, former members of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), before the case was transferred to the NIA in 2011.
There were 10 people named in the chargesheet filed by the NIA, which included Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra; both affiliated to the RSS and absconding, along with Tejram Parmar and Amit Chowhan, who are in judicial custody. All four accused hail from Madhya Pradesh.
One of the accused, Sunil Joshi also a former pracharak and Madhya Pradesh native, was murdered while the case was being investigated.
Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar and Rajender Choudhary are the other accused, who are also in custody.
The NIA said that the accused were “angered by terrorist attacks committed on Hindus and their temples” and conspired to avenge such incidents.
Jail and bail to Assemanand
Jatin Chatterjee aka Aseemanand is one of the prime accused in the case and was arrested by the CBI in 2010.
Earlier associated with the RSS, he is considered an ideologue of Abhinav Bharat, an extremist organisation allegedly involved in the Malegaon and Ajmer blasts.
On March 8 , 2017, a National Investigation Agency Special Court in Jaipur in Rajasthan held three persons guilty in the 2007 Ajmer blast case, but acquitted Aseemanand and six others.
In the last week of March, the Fourth Metropolitan Sessions court in Hyderabad granted him conditional bail and directed him to furnish two sureties of Rs 50,000 each and to not leave the city without prior permission.