Mumbai: A Special MCOCA Court on Tuesday sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and 26/11 Mumbai terror attack plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal and six others to life imprisonment till death in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case.
Two others have been sentenced to life imprisonment of 14 years and three others were awarded eight years jail term. All those convicted were fined Rs.20,000 each.
The Special MCOCA Judge, S.L. Anekar, who had found the 12 accused guilty on July 28, announced the punishment in a packed courtroom.
Awarding the sentences, Special Judge Anekar observed that the court had taken into account the gravity of the offences, the lack of remorse and the potential effect of the case on the common man.
The seven sentenced on Friday to undergo life imprisonment till death are Abu Jundal, Mohammed Amir Shakil Ahmed, Bilal Ahmed Abdul Razaq, Sayyed Akif S. Jafruddin, Afroz Khan Shahid Pathan, Faisal Ataur-Rehman Shaikh and M. Aslam Kashmiri.
Two other convicts - M. Muzafar Mohammed Tanveer and medico M. Sharif Shabbir Ahmed - have been sentenced to serve 14 years in jail.
Three other convicts have been slapped with eight-year sentences: Afzal K. Nabi Khan, Mushtaq Ahmed M. Isaf Shaikh, Javed A. Abdul Majid.
Of the convicts, Faisal Ataur-Rehmah Shaikh had earlier been sentenced to death in the July 11, 2006 Mumbai serial blasts in suburban trains.
From the total 22 accused, eight were acquitted on various grounds including lack of evidence: Mohammed Juber Sayyed Anwar, Abdul Azim Abdul Jalil, Riyaz Ahmed M. Ramzan, Khatib Imran Akil Ahmed, Vikar Ahmed Nisar Shaikh, Abdul Samad Shamsher Khan, Mohammed Akil Ismail Momin and Firoz Tajuddin Deshmukh.
However, the stringent charges under the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) were dropped against all the accused and they have been punished under various sections of the Indian Penal Code, Unlawful Activities Prevention) Act, Explosives Act and Arms Act.
Special Judge Anekar has also upheld the prosecution's plea that the case was part of a larger post-2002 Gujarat communal riots conspiracy to eliminate then Chief Minister (now Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Praveen Togadia.
"It was a conspiracy after the 2002 riots to eliminate Narendra Modi and Pravin Togadia," the judge observed in his verdict last week.
There were a total of 22 accused who were charged with procuring a huge amount of explosives, arms and ammunition, and allegedly planned to target various political leaders for their role in the Gujarat riots.
The trial, which resumed in 2013 after the arrest of Abu Jundal, had concluded in March this year before the Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act Special Court here.
The trial of two other accused - an absconder Shaikh Abdul Naim, and an approver-turned hostile witness Mehmud Sayyed - shall be conducted separately.
The Special Court also accepted the prosecution's contention that the arms, ammunition and explosives were procured from Pakistan and all the accused had a common intent of waging 'jihad' (holy war).
Following a tip, the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) teams chased a speeding Tata Indica and a Tata Sumo on the Chandwad-Manmad highway near Aurangabad on May 8, 2006.
They apprehended three suspects from the Tata Sumo -- Mohammed Aamir Shakil Ahmed, Juber Sayed Anwar and Abdulazeem Abduljameel Shaikh -- while the Tata Indica, allegedly driven by Abu Jundal, gave the slip.
In all, a total of 16 AK-47 army assault rifles, 3,200 live cartridges, 43 kg of RDX and 50 hand grenades were seized from Khultabad, Yeola and Malegaon areas on two separate occasions by the ATS.
After escaping the police team, Jundal dumped the vehicle with another associate in Malegaon in Nashik district and fled to Bangladesh and then to Pakistan on a forged passport.
A native of Beed in Maharashtra, Jundal was later arrested after his deportation from Saudi Arabia in June 2012.
He then revealed to the ATS another hideout from where they recovered 13 kg RDX, 1,200 cartridges, 50 hand grenades and 22 magazine rounds.
The prosecution examined 100 witnesses while the defence examined 16 during the long trial that totally lasted nearly 10 years.