NIA special court awards death sentence to Yasin Bhatkal and four other Indian Mujahideen operatives
New Delhi: A special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court on Monday sentenced to death Indian Mujahideen (IM) co-founder Yasin Bhatkal and four others in the 2013 Hyderabad blasts case, which killed 18 people.
While IM founder Riyaz Bhatkal—the prime accused in the case—is absconding, his cousin Yasin Bhatkal along with Zia-ur-Rehman alias Waqas, Asadullah Akhtar alias Haddi, Tahaseen Akhtar and Aijaz Sheikh were convicted by the NIA court at Cherlapally Central Prison on 13 December for masterminding and executing the blasts.
The court also convicted Bhatkal and others under various sections of Indian Penal Code, Arms Act and Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.
The final arguments in the case—the trial had begun in August 2015—concluded last month, during which 158 witnesses were examined, 201 pieces of material evidence were seized and over 500 documents produced in the court.
“The court found all the five members of Indian Mujahideen including its co-founder Mohammed Ahmed Siddibappa alias Yasin Bhatkal guilty on November 13 and convicted them on December 13. All five accused have been awarded the highest quantum of punishment in the case," said an NIA spokesperson.
In 2014, the NIA had filed two chargesheets against the five accused, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), including 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 121 (waging war against the country), 121-A (conspiracy to wage war) and various sections of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, in which the NIA had highlighted Bhatkal’s role as a conspiracy of the IM to “carry out terror activities."
In its charge sheet, the NIA said Riyaz Bhatkal arranged the supply of explosives and money while Asadullah Akhtar and Waqas received the same. The chargesheet states that Tahseen Akhtar also aided the accused to prepare two IEDs, which were used to carry out the twin blasts in Dilsukhnagar.
The NIA stated, “Bhatkal, along with other conspirators, developed different modules and sleeper cells in Delhi, Darbhanga in Bihar, Nanded, Mumbai, Pune, Bhatkal in Karnataka and Hyderabad."
In August 2013, Yasin Bhatkal and Asadullah were arrested from Bihar, close to the Nepal border. The other three were arrested subsequently.
Yasin Bhatkal had risen to become the IM’s key executioner, playing a key role in several blasts across India. He became the IM’s India operations head after founders Iqbal and Riyaz Bhatkal fled to Pakistan in 2008 after the Batla House encounter in Delhi.
Bhatkal was also allegedly involved in five other blasts, including the 2010 German Bakery blast in Pune that killed 17 and the Dilsukhnagar twin blasts. He is also suspected by investigators to have played an active role in the 2006 Mumbai serial train blasts which killed almost 190 people.
The NIA court verdict can be appealed against before the high court within 30 days. This appeal period is extendable only to a maximum of 90 days. It will have to be heard by a minimum of two judges and decided preferably within three months.