62 get life for killing eight in Kerala communal clash (Second Lead)

January 15th, 2009 - 7:58 pm ICT by IANS  

Kozhikode (Kerala), Jan 15 (IANS) A special court in Kerala Thursday sentenced 62 people to life imprisonment for the May 2003 communal violence in the coastal village of Marad in which eight people were killed. Additional Sessions Judge (Special Court) Babu Mathew P. Joseph also sentenced one person - Abdul Latheef - to six years imprisonment for misusing a mosque. The guilty verdict against the 63 had come in December, when 76 people charged in the case were acquitted.

The judge, however, agreed to treat the years that the culprits had spent in jail as part of the sentence. With Latheef already having spent six years in jail, he can walk free.

Marad had been seeing communal tensions before the massacre of eight fisherfolk on May 2, 2003. Earlier, six people had been killed in an attack in 2002.

The first outburst of violence took place on Jan 3 and 4 in 2002 when three Hindus and two Muslims were killed in a sudden breach of peace, in what began as a trivial altercation over drinking water at the public tap.

The second episode took place during dusk on May, 2 2003, when seven Hindus and one Muslim were hacked to death. The killers then escaped into the local Juma Masjid.

The Marad enquiry commission’s report notes the submission of then Kozhikode police commissioner T.K. Vinod Kumar that hundreds of local women converged on the mosque to prevent the police from entering it.

The Kerala government had last month asked the central government to launch a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the Marad massacres of 2002 and 2003.

Reacting to the sentencing, defence counsel G. Janardhana Kurup said an appeal would be filed soon.

“The case is a weak one where all the evidence is weak. We will certainly go in for an appeal. Ninety percent of the people sentenced have a good chance of being let off,” he told reporters.

Public prosecutor P.D. Ravi said that he would discuss the issue with the government.

“This is being done to see if we need to go for an appeal,” said Ravi, unhappy that the court did not classify it as a rarest of rare case.

State Congress president Ramesh Chennithala welcomed the verdict saying: “What we need is communal harmony and not communal violence.”

However, former state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president P.S. Sreedharan Pillai was unhappy and said the verdict was only a “partial success”.

“The need of the hour is that everyone should note that we cannot afford to have a repeat of this,” said Pillai, a popular criminal lawyer.

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