31 convicted in India Godhra train fire

February 23rd, 2011 - 12:01 am ICT by BNO News  

GUJARAT, INDIA (BNO NEWS) — A special court in the western Indian state of Gujarat on Tuesday convicted 31 people and acquitted 63 others in the 2002 Godhra train blaze that killed 59 people.

“Special Court judge P R Patel has convicted 31 accused while acquitting 63 others,” Public Prosecutor J M Panchal said after the verdict inside the Sabarmati jail.

“On February 25, there will be a hearing on the point of sentence, and after that quantum of punishment will be pronounced,” Panchal added, as cited by the Deccan Herald.

The accused were charged with criminal conspiracy and murder in burning of the Sabarmati Express on February 27, 2002, near the town of Godhra in which 59 people, mainly Hindu, were killed. The attack triggered widespread communal riots in Gujarat that claimed the lives of over 1,200 people, mainly Muslims.

“Petrol was brought and the train was made to stop. Electricity was then cut and there was pouring of huge quantity of petrol and thereafter it was set afire so far as S-6 coach is concerned,” Panchal said replying to a query on prosecution’s theory of conspiracy.

The trial began in June 2009 with the framing of charges against 94 accused in the attack. Of the 94, 80 are in jail and 14 are out on bail. As many as 253 witnesses were examined during the trial, and over 1,500 documentary evidences were presented before the court by the Gujarat police, the newspaper reported.

Two different panels appointed to inquire into the 2002 case had given different views on the Godhra train burning incident. The Nanavati Commission, appointed by the Gujarat government, concluded that the fire was not an accident, but it was caused by throwing petrol inside it. Meanwhile, the one-man U C Banerjee Commission appointed by the Railway Ministry under Lalu Prasad Yadav had said that fire was “accidental.”

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