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Judgment splits Memons
Serial verdicts in serial blasts

Mumbai, Sept. 12: Four members of the Memon family, including a woman, were found guilty by a special court today, signalling the beginning of the end of one of the world’s longest trials.

The four convicted — Yakub, Essa and Yusuf, all brothers, and Rubeena, their sister-in-law — were held guilty of criminal conspiracy in organising and carrying out the Bombay blasts of March 12, 1993, in which 257 people were killed.

Ibrahim Mushtaq “Tiger” Memon, the eldest of the six Memon brothers who is a key accused and a close associate of Dawood Ibrahim, the alleged mastermind of the blasts, has been declared a fugitive and is suspected to be living in Pakistan with another of the brothers, Ayub.

The verdict divides husband and wife — Yakub (convicted) and Raheen (let off) and Suleman (let off) and Rubeena (convicted). It also separates Hanifa, the mother held not guilty, from three of her sons. The case against Abdul Razzak, the Memons’ father, was closed on his death.

Judge Pramod Kode explained that “it was not a clear acquittal” for Hanifa, Raheen and Suleman, but he had given them the “benefit of the doubt” for lack of evidence.

Yakub was held guilty of arranging finance and participating in the storage and distribution of arms and explosives.

Essa, Yusuf and Rubeena were convicted for allowing their two flats in Al-Husaini Building at Mahim to be used to hatch the conspiracy.

The four Memons could face punishment starting from five years to life imprisonment.

After the verdict was read, Yakub, a chartered accountant by profession, charged around the room and screamed: “You are making good people terrorists while people who are really doing the bombings are making you look like fools.”

The outburst followed the judge’s refusal, following objections by the prosecution, to permit Rubeena a week before she was taken into custody to enable her to organise care for her three children and an ailing Hanifa. The conviction meant cancellation of Rubeena’s bail.

Yakub, usually suave and soft-spoken, lost control. His wife Raheen sobbed softly as he raged.

The outburst stunned the court, engulfing in utter silence the room in the Arthur Road jail that had been turned into a fortress packed to the brim with over 200 people. There was speculation that frustration over the death of a decade of hoping to be treated leniently for having surrendered in 1994 had burst forth.

Later, the court gave Rubeena bail on a Rs 5-lakh bond till completion of pronouncement of the verdict.

The verdicts against the remaining defendants, including Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt who was present in court clad in a blue shirt and jeans, will be handed down in batches in the coming weeks, the judge said.

It could take six weeks to complete the process, the verdict on Dutt, for whom a large crowd had gathered outside hoping to see “Munnabhai”, coming possibly in three-four weeks.

The prosecution wanted the court to deliver all the verdicts together but the judge refused.

“The accused, who are on bail, should be taken into custody,” the judge said. Of the four convicted, only Yakub was in jail.

The family had fled the country between March 11 and 12. Except Tiger and Ayub, other members returned to India in 1994 and were arrested.

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