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Riot case convictions

Ahmedabad, Nov. 24: A local court in Kheda district today convicted 15 persons responsible for the massacre of 14 Muslims on March 3, 2002, in Ghodasar village during post Godhra communal violence, reports our correspondent.

Justice C.K. Rane, who however acquitted 48 people, will pronounce the sentence tomorrow.

The conviction comes three days after the Supreme Court asked the Narendra Modi government to respond to a proposal to shift major riot cases out of Gujarat.

In all, 64 people had been arrested in connection with the massacre. One of those held died of natural causes in judicial custody and 51 were out on bail. More than 40 witnesses were examined in connection with the case.

The 15 convicts against whom the judge said offence has been proved were immediately taken into custody. Twelve of them were charged under Section 302 of the IPC (murder). Three were charged under Sections 324 (voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means) and 147 (rioting) of the IPC. This is second conviction by a local court in post-Godhra riot cases.

In the first conviction in such cases, four persons were convicted on October 16 of stabbing a youth to death on March 22, 2002, in Lal Akhada area of Vadodara. In the Ghodasar case, an armed mob slaughtered 14 Muslims of the village in an open field four days after the Godhra train carnage. The Muslims were killed in retaliation for the death of three Hindus of the area, allegedly by people of the minority community. The trial had ended in September, but the passing of the verdict was postponed four times.

Karimbhai Mallek, a resident of Mehmedabad taluka, said the witnesses who returned to the village chose not to antagonise majority community members. However, the others had identified the accused, resulting in their conviction.

Two of those convicted Girish Sharma and Ramalsinh Chauhan are reportedly affiliated to the BJP. The others include brothers Hukasinh and Bhawansinh Parmar, as well as Jugabhai and his son Peyabhai.

Defence advocate T.R. Vajpayee said he would try to ensure that none of the accused gets the death sentence.

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