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House trio on death row
- Convict’s wife gets 5 years in jail

New Delhi, Dec. 18: Three persons convicted of plotting the Parliament attack, including a lecturer, have been sentenced to death under the Prevention of Terrorism Act.

The fourth convict, a woman, has been sentenced to five years’ rigorous imprisonment for not divulging the plot to the authorities. The ruling comes just over a year after the Parliament attack that left nine dead and brought India and Pakistan close to war.

The defendants — suspected Jaish-e-Mohammad militants Mohammad Afzal and Shaukat Hussain and suspended Delhi University lecturer S.A.R. Geelani — were calm as the sentence was read out in the packed Patiala House courtroom. The three had pleaded innocent.

The special court that handed the sentences described this as the “rarest of rare cases”. Judge S.N. Dhingra said he was awarding the death sentence to the three for their logistical support in the attack that India has blamed on Pakistan-based militants.

“The persons who help terrorists enter into India and carry out fidayeen attacks are equally liable for the killing of innocent persons as the hardcore terrorists themselves,” he said. “They are enemies of mankind, they deserve no leniency. The punishment given in such cases must be deterrent.”

Navjot Sandhu alias Afsan Guru — the wife of Shaukat — received a milder punishment considering that she was facing a “difficult choice of going against her husband”, the judge said in his order. She is mentally disturbed, according to reports from prison.

The three convicts have also been sentenced to life imprisonment and rigorous imprisonment for offences committed under various sections of the anti-terror law, the Indian Penal Code, the Arms Act and the Explosive Substances Act.

A defence lawyer said an appeal would be filed in Delhi High Court within a month. Geelani claimed he had been “framed”. “By convicting innocent persons, you can’t suppress emotions. Peace comes with justice. If there is no justice, there would be no democracy,” he said.

“I’m fighting for the liberation of Kashmir,” shouted Shaukat as he was being dragged out of the court by securitymen.

Afzal described the verdict as a conspiracy hatched by the police and politicians.

Police in Jammu and Kashmir are on high alert after the judgment. “There is scope for retaliation, especially by the Jaish-e-Mohammad,” K. Rajendra, Kashmir range inspector-general of police, said.

The BJP described the verdict as “historic and important” because these were the first sentences handed under the anti-terror law. Shiv Sainiks burst crackers on the court premises.

The judge took state governments to task for refusing to implement the anti-terror law and said “there seems to be no national consensus in respect to the response to terrorism and terrorists and people of their clan”. (  )

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