Coimbatore: S.A. Basha, the mastermind of the 1998 blasts that killed 58 people hours before the arrival here of senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani, was on 1 August convicted with 72 others by a special court that exonerated Kerala-based hardline leader Abdul Nasser Madani.
Basha, the founder of the banned Al-Umma, Mohammed Ansari, the group’s general secretary, and the other convicts were found guilty of hatching a criminal conspiracy to trigger a series of explosions here on 14 February, 1998 and to create enmity between two communities.
Judge K. Uthirapathy of the sessions court handling the bomb blast cases exonerated Madani, chairman of Kerala-based PDP, of all five charges against him, including criminal conspiracy. The verdicts were delivered amidst tight security.
The judge said the major charge under section 120b (criminal conspiracy) of IPC had been proved against 73 of the 166 accused.
Uthirapathy said the charges against eight persons had not been proved. He deferred the verdict against five accused and said there were minor charges against the remaining accused.
The sentences are expected to be pronounced from 6 August after the judge hears arguments by the defence.
Nineteen bomb blasts, which also injured over 200 people, rocked the city shortly before then Home Minister Advani was to address election meetings here.
The Special Investigation Team said the blasts were part of a consipiracy to eliminate Advani in retaliation for the killing of 17 Muslims as a fall-out of the murder of traffic constable Selvaraj on 29 November, 1997.