| Shaikh Kasam Babulal, acquitted on Thursday, being frisked before entering the Tada court. (PTI)
Mumbai, Sept. 28: Five grateful men walked free from special judge Pramod Kode’s court today in a verdict seen as the first major setback for the prosecution in the 1993 serial blasts case.
The five had been accused of plotting the March 12 attack at a meeting in Dubai on their way to Pakistan for arms training.
Kode, however, convicted Sarfaraz Phanse, an aide of absconding prime accused Tiger Memon, for helping smuggle explosives into the city. The anti-terror court found him guilty of playing a role in the landing of arms and explosives in Shekhadi, a village in coastal Raigad.
The consignment was the second arms landing masterminded by Memon and elusive don Dawood Ibrahim through their smuggling network in February. Over 3,000 kg of RDX was smuggled into Mumbai through these landings.
Phanse faces a maximum punishment of life in prison.
The blow to the prosecution came later when Kode acquitted Mansoor Qureshi, Shaikh Kasam Babulal, Sultan-e-Rome Ali Gul, Abdul Aziz Kader and Mohammed Iqbal Ibrahim.
The CBI had said the five knew about the conspiracy and had agreed to travel to Pakistan for arms training but could not leave Dubai as travel arrangements had not been made. Investigators also claimed that the group attended the conspiracy meeting called by Dawood Ibrahim and Memon in Dubai on February 15.
Kode said of the five, only one had given a confession, which could not be accepted as evidence as it was not recorded properly. He said there was no evidence to establish that the five had travelled to Dubai to attend the meeting and added that the charges against them could not be established.
The five, who were on bail, thanked Kode. “It’s enough that they have acquitted us,” Ibrahim, who runs a garment business, said when asked if he would seek compensation.
Mansoor, the first to be acquitted, said “salaam” when Kode cleared him, while Babulal stood up in disbelief.
Today’s verdict took the number of convictions so far to 20, while 11 have been cleared.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam refused to accept the verdict as a setback. “We will examine the reasons for acquittal, and may go in appeal against the verdict,” he said.
Another Memon aide, Mushtaq Tarani, convicted yesterday for planting explosives, informed the court that he was unwell. He requested it to record his statement on Monday.