IM operative convicted for 2010 Pune blast (Roundup)

Pune, April 15 (IANS) A Pune court Monday held German Bakery blast prime accused and Indian Mujahideen operative Himayat Baig guilty for his role in the terror attack which left 17 people dead, drawing the curtain on the trial in the Valentine’s Day eve tragedy here in 2010.

Pune Sessions Court Special Judge M.P. Dhote delivered the verdict before a packed courtroom in the morning.

“Taking into consideration the evidence before me, I am holding Baig guilty,” Special Judge Dhote said of the lone arrested accused who planted the bomb under one of the tables in the German Bakery restaurant.

He will April 18 pronounce the quantum of sentence for Baig on the various charges, many of which attract the death penalty.

A resident of Beed district, Baig was nabbed from Udgir town in neighbouring Latur district by the state Anti-Terrorism Squad in September 2010, nearly seven months after the terror attack.

Special Public Prosecutor Raja Thakre said Baig was charged under Indian Penal Code Sections 302, 307 (murder and attempt to murder), 435, 474 (mischief by fire and explosive and forgery) and 120(b) (criminal conspiracy), besides other charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act and the Explosives Act.

Baig’s lawyer A. Rahman said though he respected the special court verdict, he would challenge it in the Bombay High Court.

“We are going to appeal in the Bombay High Court. I am sure we shall get justice there,” Rahman told reporters shortly after the verdict.

The court upheld the prosecution contention that the blast was “a carefully planned and executed attack” calculated to terrorise the general public, causing extensive damage to life and property.

The prosecution said the primary objective of the terror attack was to undermine and reduce faith of the common people in the elected government and destabilise the system of law.

The special judge upheld the prosecution argument that the terror attack caused deaths of foreign nationals, earning the country a bad name. Five foreigners were among the 17 victims of the Feb 13, 2010 blast.

The prosecution named seven people in the chargesheet, including absconders Yasin Bhatkal, Riyaz Bhatkal, Iqbal Bhatkal, Mohsin Choudhary and Fazzay Kagti, besides Himayat Baig (who was nabbed).

Another accused named in the chargesheet, Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal, who is undergoing trial in other terror cases, has been booked for the German Bakery blast.

After his arrest in September 2010, the ATS charged Baig with hatching a conspiracy along with his six associates for the terror blast at German Bakery, situated in the up-market Koregaon Park area of Pune.

The investigators said the conspiracy for the terror blast was hatched in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in March 2008 in the presence of Baig, Jundal and Kagti. Baig’s lawyer Rahman denied this charge.

After Baig returned from Colombo, he settled in Udgir where he operated a cyber cafe and remained in touch with the other accused using 25 different email identities, the prosecution said.

Baig surveyed the area near the German Bakery Jan 31, 2010 and under the orders of Yasin Bhatkal planted the bomb.

During the three-and-half-year-long trial, the prosecution examined 103 witnesses even as Baig rejected the charges claiming he was in Aurangabad on the day of the terror blast and was framed in the case.

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