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Indian Court Sentences 11 to Life in Prison for Religious-Riot Deaths

Friday 17 June 2016, by siawi3


Killings took place in 2002, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister in Gujarat state

Photo: One of the men convicted for killings during the 2002 Gujarat riots is taken back to jail after the court announced sentences in Ahmadabad on Friday. Photo: Associated Press

By Rajesh Roy

June 17, 2016 6:44 a.m. ET

MUMBAI—An Indian court on Friday sentenced 11 people to life in prison over the killing of 69 Muslims at a housing complex in the western state of Gujarat during religious riots in 2002, when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister there.

The court in Ahmedabad said the riots marked the “darkest phase in civil society,” according to R.C Kodekar, the public prosecutor representing the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team that looked into the case.

The 69 killings took place at a housing complex called the Gulbarg Society in Ahmedabad, during some of the worst communal violence in India’s recent history. More than 1,000 people—most of them Muslims—died over several days of rioting. The incident has long dogged Mr. Modi’s political career.

On June 2, the court convicted a total of 24 people in the Gulbarg Society killings, while 36 people were acquitted. Apart from the 11 life sentences handed down on Friday, the court sentenced 12 people to seven years in prison and one other to 10 years, said Mr. Kodekar, who had been seeking the death penalty for all of those convicted.

“We plan to appeal against the judgment in a higher court as the quantum of punishment handed over is insufficient,” Mr. Kodekar said.

“We have submitted that these [convicted] people are menace to the society.”

The lawyer for the accused and convicted, Abhay Bhardwaj, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment. He had in the past, however, refuted the demand of capital punishment, saying the incident was spontaneous and there were provocations.

Among the victims of the massacre, in which homes were burned and women were raped, was a former leader in the opposition Congress party, Ehsan Jafri.

His wife, Zakia Jafri, had sought the death penalty for those found guilty of killing her husband and other residents of the Gulbarg Society.

“I am not satisfied, I am not happy. I will have to consult my lawyers again, this is not justice,” Ms Jafri was quoted as saying in the local media.