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Mecca Masjid blast: All accused acquitted

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Hyderabad, Apr 16: A special court here on Monday acquitted right-wing ideologue and former RSS member Swami Aseemanand and four others in the 2007 Mecca Masjid blast case, ruling that the prosecution failed to prove charges against them.

The special court of the National Investigation Agency (NIA) found fault with the prosecution for not presenting satisfactory evidence. The NIA is likely to move the High Court, challenging the acquittal

On May 18, 2007, a powerful blast ripped through the historic Mecca Masjid during Friday prayers, killing nine people and injured 58 others. Five others were killed in the police firing during the violence that followed soon after the blast. A pipe-bomb triggered by a mobile phone timer went off near the ablution spot of the 17th-century mosque located close to the iconic Charminar.

 

After initial investigation by the local police, the case was transferred to the CBI which filed a chargesheet. The NIA took over the case from the CBI in 2011.

Eight people belonging to right-wing organisations, including Aseemanand, Devender Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharatbhai and Rajender Chowdhary, were charged by the NIA in the blast case. The court, however, delivered its verdict with regard to the five accused. One accused, Sunil Joshi, was murdered in December, 2007, during the course of investigation while two others—Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra from Madhya Pradesh—are still at large.

A total of 226 witnesses were examined during the trial and as many as 411 documents exhibited. Swami Aseemanand and Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar are out on bail, while three others are in the Central Prison in Hyderabad.

In March last year, Aseemanand was also acquitted in the Ajmer blast. He is also on trial for the 2006 Malegaon blasts and the 2007 Samjhauta Express bombing.

The accused in the sensational Mecca Masjid blast case are allegedly linked to a fringe Hindu organisation called Abhinav Bharat.

Initially, the Hyderabad police who investigated the case suspected the involvement of Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami (HuJI), a fundamentalist group supported by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). The police had picked up more than 90 Muslim youth for interrogation and 21 of them were charge-sheeted.

The police blamed Bilal, linked to HuJI, as the mastermind behind the terror attack. He was later killed in an encounter. After a trial, the Nampally criminal courts acquitted all the accused in January, 2009, for lack of evidence. Subsequently, the Central Government transferred the case to the CBI. Later, the case was handed over to the NIA in 2011.

Meanwhile, reacting to the court’s verdict, Hyderabad MP and president of Majlis Ittehadul Muslimeen (MIM) Asaduddin Owaisi said that the majority of witnesses in the case had turned hostile after June 2014. “The NIA did not pursue the case as it was expected from them. The NIA is guided by the political masters. It is a deaf and blind parrot. Our fight against terrorism is weakened after today’s acquittal,” he said.

In May, 2010, the CBI had said that the Mecca Masjid blast and the 2008 Ajmer Dargah blast were “linked, going by the nature of phone timer devices, explosives and the bomb used and common identity proof used to obtain SIM cards.”

On November 19, 2010, Swami Aseemanand, who had been on the run since 2008, was arrested from Haridwar for his alleged role in the blast. He had submitted a signed declaration that he, and several members of the Abhinav Bharat, had conspired and executed the bomb blast at Mecca Masjid.


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Time for talks over, world must act now: PM

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New Delhi, Feb 18: The Pulwama attack which claimed the lives of 49 CRPF men shows that the time to hold talks on “terrorism” is over and there is an urgent need to unite against such elements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday.

The Prime Minister, who was holding talks with Argentina President Mauricio Macri, said dithering to take action against militants and their supporters will be like encouraging militancy.

“Brutal attack in Pulwama proves that time for talks have passed. Now the entire world needs to unite against ‘terrorism’ and its supporters and take strong actions,” PM said.

 

President of Argentina Mauricio Macri said, “I would like to convey my condolences to the victims of the cruel attack (Pulwama) perpetrated just a few days ago. We condemn every kind of terrorist attack. I am truly pleased to be able to working together to fight this scourge on mankind.”

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Cross LoC trade, bus service suspended

Bisma Bhat

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Srinagar, Feb 18: The cross-LoC trade between India and Pakistan via Poonch has been suspended in backdrop of the Pulwama suicide attack in which 49 CRPF personnel were killed last Thursday.
“Since the incident, no truck was allowed to cross the Line of control hence affecting the trade,” an official said.
He added that Poonch-Rawalakot cross-LoC bus service too has been suspended till further orders.
President, Cross LoC trade Union, Pawan Anand told The Kashmir Monitor that 60 trucks are stranded at trade centre (Chakan Da Bagh).
“We got orders to suspend the trade,” he said.
Pawan said that at least they have endured more than 4 crore of losses due to the trade suspension.
He added that most of the trucks are loaded with grapes, tomato, banana, tamarind and ser (zeera).
Besides Poonch, the cross-LoC trade also takes place through Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road in Uri.
However, DC Baramulla, Nasir Ahmad Naqash, confirmed that Uri has not received any order for trade suspension yet.

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MBS conferred Nishan-e-Pakistan: Saudi vows to ‘de-escalate’ India-Pakistan tension

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Islamabad, Feb 18: Saudi Arabia vowed to “de-escalate” rising tensions between Pakistan and India during a high-profile summit in Islamabad Monday as Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman prepares to travel from Islamabad to New Delhi.
The kingdom’s foreign minister spoke at a press conference in Islamabad as Pakistan recalled its envoy from Delhi for “consultations”, the latest development in a fresh diplomatic crisis between the nuclear-armed neighbors.
Delhi has vowed to retaliate after a suicide blast which killed over 40 Indian paramilitaries in Kashmir on Thursday, the deadliest attack in Kashmir in recent decade.
The attack has sparked widespread calls in India for action against Pakistan.
“Our objective is to try to de-escalate tensions between the two countries, neighboring countries, and to see if there is a path forward to resolving those differences peacefully,” said Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir.
The pledge came as the crown prince, widely known as “MBS”, prepared to head for India later Monday, at the conclusion of his two-day visit to Pakistan.
India is garnering diplomatic support after the attack and has vowed to “isolate” Pakistan diplomatically in the international community, saying it has “incontrovertible evidence” of Islamabad’s role.
Pakistan has rejected the allegations.
Meanwhile, Pakistan President Arif Alvi on Monday conferred the country’s highest civil award — Nishan-e-Pakistan — on Saudi Crown Prince.
Mohammad bin Salman was honoured due to his “outstanding support for reinvigorating Pak-Saudi bilateral relationship”, Dawn reported.
Following the Pakistan president’s speech, the Saudi crown prince, as per Dawn, addressed the audience. “I was honoured to meet the president of Pakistan. I thank you for honouring me with Pakistan’s highest award.
“The brotherly relationship between the kingdom and Pakistan focus on the principle of Islamic solidarity. It is a model to be emulated by other nations. Our [countries’ relationship] go back 67 years that witnessed continuous development that rendered itself beneficial for both countries.
“The founding fathers for both countries established these relations on the principles of truthfulness, common understanding and mutual respect that go back to the first days of the establishment of Pakistan, post-World War 2.
“Our Pakistani brothers participated truthfully and effectively in the great development project that Saudi Arabia witnessed, especially the enlargement project of Masjid-e-Haram and Masjid-e-Nabwi. More than 2 million Pakistanis are working in Saudi Arabia and are contributing to the development of both the countries.
“I wish all the best to the president and the prime minister in the service of this country and its people.”
At the conclusion of the ceremony, the Saudi crown prince said his goodbyes to the Pakistan president and members of the federal cabinet before leaving for Nur Khan Airbase. As was the case when he had arrived, Pakistan prime minister Imran Khan personally drove the car carrying the Saudi crown prince.
On Sunday, MBS signed $20 billion in investment deals with cash-strapped Islamabad and vowed to free thousands of Pakistani prisoners in Saudi custody.

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