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Season of death rolls in Bombay bombings

Mumbai, July 18: Three men were today sentenced to death for their role in the 1993 Bombay blasts, signalling the beginning of the end of the world’s longest terror trial.

Pervez Shaikh, Mushtaq Tarani and Abdul Ghani Ismail Turk — who planted bombs in the first urban terror attack of such ferocity, which killed 257 people on March 12, 1993 — are the first to be handed capital punishment in the case that has never faded from public memory.

The death sentences are subject to confirmation by the Supreme Court in 30 days.

Only 19 of the 100 convicts are still to be sentenced and the trial in special Tada judge Pramod Kode’s court is expected to be wrapped up soon. The last phase of the nearly 14-year trial began in September 2006, when Kode started handing out the verdict.

Those yet to be sentenced include 10 “bomb planters” who have been convicted of the same charges as the three sent to death row today. Actor Sanjay Dutt, too, awaits his sentence.

Turk, 50, who planted a jeep packed with RDX hidden in a specially-created compartment at Century Bazaar, showed no emotion as the sentence was read out. The blast — one of 12 that rocked the city — caused almost half of all the fatalities. “This is Allah’s will and no one can do anything. There is a court above all of us,” he said.

Then the driver of prime accused Tiger Memon, who is absconding, Turk was also found guilty of preparing the RDX-loaded vehicle bombs at his employer’s Mahim home.

The first to get the death sentence, Pervez, the son of a Western Railway station superintendent, appeared stunned. “His excuse that the act was revenge for the demolition of Babri Masjid is not convincing,” Kode said.

Pervez participated in various stages of the act, from the landing of the RDX to planting the explosives, he said.

Tarani, 44, might have been expecting a life term, after two convicts who had planted bombs that did not explode received the same yesterday. One of two bombs he planted did not explode, and the other did not kill anyone. But the judge said Tarani, who has two school-going daughters, was close to Memon and part of the blasts conspiracy from beginning to end.

Kode rejected defence counsel Farhana Shah’s argument that they suffered injuries and damages to property in the 1992-93 riots after the Babri Masjid demolition. “These acts have disgraced Muslim religion,” he said, pointing out that the blast victims had nothing to do with the demolition.

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