Sunday, June 19, 2016

Indian court jails 11 for life over Gujarat massacre of Muslims

An Indian court jailed 11 Hindus for life on Friday for the murder of dozens of Muslims during riots in Gujarat in 2002 that shook India at a time Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the state's chief minister.

The court called the massacre the "darkest day" but rejected prosecutors' demand to sentence the defendants to death, after ruling that the attack was not planned.

A Hindu mob scaled the boundary wall of a housing complex in Ahmedabad, Gujarat's largest city, in February 2002 before torching the homes in which Muslim families were trapped.

Among the victims were children and women who were burned to death.

The riots, among the worst since India's independence from Britain in 1947, have dogged Modi's political career for years after he was accused of not doing enough to stop the violence.

Zakia Jafri, whose husband Ehsan, a former Congress party legislator, died in the blaze at the housing complex, said the sentences on Friday were too lenient.

"I am not satisfied with this verdict. I have to start all over again. This is wrong," she told media.

The trial began in 2009 and four of the defendants died during the lengthy proceedings.

Jafri, who is fighting what may be the last legal battle to pin blame on Modi, says she saw her husband making repeated desperate calls to police for help but none came.

He was dragged out of his home by sword-wielding men and within minutes was stripped and killed, according to Jafri.

"This was a massacre. So many people came together to do this, so what happened was clearly the result of a conspiracy. The 24 people should have been sentenced to life in prison. We will appeal," S.M. Vohra, a lawyer for some of the victims, told Reuters.

The court had dropped charges of criminal conspiracy against the accused, and acquitted 36 other defendants earlier this month.

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