Mumbai, July 27: “O my Lord, forgive this man. He knows not what he does!” screamed Yakub Memon, almost Christ-like, as the anti-terror court today sentenced him to death in the 1993 bombings.
Face contorted in anger and piercing eyes fixed on Judge Pramod Kode, the bearded younger brother of blast mastermind Tiger Memon jumped up in disbelief and threw up his hands as all the pent-up fury of languishing 14 years in jail erupted.
“I don’t want to remain in this court. I don’t want to be here,” he yelled as he stormed out of the first-floor courtroom, struggling to free himself from the clutches of six policemen who had flanked him on the wooden bench.
The 45-year-old was the only one among the Memons to be given death. His younger brothers Essa and Yusuf and sister-in-law Rubeena were awarded life.
Yakub could still be heard shouting while he was being led down the narrow staircase to an adjacent barracks for his fingerprints. But he calmed down a little as Essa and Yusuf comforted him and muttered: “I have forgiven him.”
Just before they vanished inside the heavily guarded barracks, the three brothers held each other and chanted “Allahu Akbar”, as though seeking divine strength to take the decision. Rubeena wept as she stood beside them, wearing a black burqa.
Back in the courtroom, it took the judge a while to regain his composure and continue sentencing the family that had planned, funded and executed the serial bombings.
As Kode called for accused No. 117 to appear in the witness box, Sanjay Dutt, who had been quietly watching the goings-on from a side bench, went pale. The star possibly thought his turn had finally come.
But to his relief, the judge posted the verdict on his probation application to July 31.
“If I complete (dictating) it, I will give it on July 31,” Kode told Sanjay and his three friends, asking them to leave immediately and not loiter around or interact with the Memons.
Dressed in a colourful checked shirt and denims, Sanjay sat chewing something when proceedings began this morning. The Memons sat together on the first bench in the accused enclosure, flanked by policemen.
Moving on to the other Memons, the judge gave Essa and Yusuf life terms for permitting their flat No. 26 and garage C-6 in Al Husseini building in Mahim to be used for loading RDX into vehicles. They were spared death as Essa suffers from morbid obesity and brain tumour and Yusuf has schizophrenia.
Rubeena, too, was sentenced to life imprisonment. The court said she was guilty of allowing a Maruti van registered in her name to be used in the conspiracy.
The van was used to lob hand grenades at the Fishermen’s Colony in Mahim and later abandoned at Worli. It had put the police on the trail of the Memons.
Yakub was sentenced under various sections of the anti-terror act, arms act and the explosives substances act. Some of the grounds on which he was held guilty are:
Arranging finance with the help of hawala operator Mulchand Shah and through Tejarath International owned by brother Ayub
Purchasing air tickets through Altaf Ali Sayyed of East West Travels to send youths for arms training to Pakistan
Purchasing vehicles used in the bombings
Asking co-accused to store suitcases containing arms, ammunition, grenades and detonators.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam objected to Yakub’s “consistently violent” behaviour and urged the court not to allow him to meet his family before he was sent to Yerawada jail in Pune.
But the court allowed Yakub’s brother, Suleiman, to meet him.