Mumbai, Sept. 18: The special Tada court hearing the 1993 serial blasts case today convicted a man facing charges of acquiring training in handling arms and explosives in Pakistan.
The indictment came only a day after the Havana meeting where Manmohan Singh and Pervez Musharraf pledged a joint working group to fight terrorism.
Judge Pramod Kode found Shahnawaz Abdul Kadar Qureshi, 48, accused number 29, guilty of parking an RDX-laden vehicle at Plaza cinema along with co-accused Asghar Mukadam, 45. The explosion killed 10, injured 36 and damaged property worth Rs 87 lakh.
The conviction is likely to bolster India’s oft-repeated claim that Pakistan provides covert support to cross-border terrorism.
It could also set a precedent for the 12 to 15 others facing charges of having gone to Pakistan for training in planting the explosives.
According to the CBI, one of the two groups that received such training allegedly travelled to Dubai before skipping immigration formalities to enter Pakistan with the help of agents.
Qureshi was convicted on all 12 charges slapped against him, while Mukadam was held guilty on 14 counts. Their cases were clubbed. The cases of other co-accused who participated together in the serial explosions are likely to be bunched, too.
Qureshi and Mukadam became the sixth and seventh accused in the case to be convicted after four members of the Memon family, and Mohammed Shoaib Ghansar, who was accused of parking a bomb-laden vehicle at Zaveri Bazaar.
The two indicted today could face the death penalty under Section 3 (2) (i) (ii) of the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act.
According to the charge-sheet filed against him, Mukadam, who came from an affluent Muslim family in Andheri, was a manager of Tiger Memon, the prime accused in the blasts. Arrested on March 18, 1993, Mukadam was accused of attending conspiracy meetings, helping in arms and explosive landings at Shekhadi on February 3 and 7, 1993, filling RDX in vehicles parked at various sites and disbursing money arranged from hawala dealer Mulchand Shah.
He was also accused of accompanying Mohammed Tarani, Parvez Sheikh, Mohammed Ghansar and Anwar Theba — others charged in the blasts — in a Maruti van when they planted RDX-filled suitcases at three five-star hotels located in Bandra and Juhu.
Kode, however, ruled that the charges of attending conspiracy meetings and participating in the Shekhadi landings have not been established against Mukadam.
Under Tada, the two have been accused of knowingly abetting and facilitating (Section 3, 3) and committing a terrorist act that caused deaths and destroyed properties on mass scale (Section 3 (2) (i) (ii).
On Tuesday, Kode is likely to rule on the fate of Abdul Gani Ismail Turk, accused number 11. He has been accused of planting an RDX-laden Commander jeep near a bus stop in Worli’s Century Bazaar, killing 113 and injuring 227.