Coimbatore, Oct 24: A special court here today awarded life imprisonment to the founder leader of the Al-Umma, S A Basha, for his involvement in the 1998 Coimbatore serial bomb blasts.
Twelve blasts rocked the city on February 14, 1998 that killed 58 and injured over 200 others. The blasts were targeted at a venue where senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L K Advani was scheduled to address a meeting.
After the sentence was announced, Basha said that only Muslims are punished, adding that, “The Sangh Parivar is never punished".
According to media reports, defence counsel will appeal against the sentence.
The court also awarded a double life term to General Secretary Mohammed Ansari, who was among the 70, convicted on August 1. All 70 were found guilty of criminal conspiracy and murder.
Special Court Judge K Uthirapathi also sentenced eight other key convicts to life imprisonment. Earlier, eighty-eight convicted of charges such as attempt to murder, possessing explosives and promoting communal hatred were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from 21 months to nine years.
As they had already served their prison term as undertrials, the Special Judge K Uthirapathi had ordered their release.
Tight security arrangements were made around the Coimbatore court. The movement of the public and vehicles was also restricted around the court area.
Police is also keeping a constant vigil on all sensitive pockets in the district.
The prosecuting agency registered cases against 168. Of these, one accused died in prison and another turned approver.
Of the 166 accused, a total of 158 have been convicted of various charges, while eight have been acquitted.
Among the eight not found guilty are PDP leader Abdul Nasser Madhani. They were also released.
In April 2000, a Special Court was formed to try the cases, and in the same year (October 2000), charges were framed.
The trial started in March 2002, and has examined 1,300 witnesses out of a total of 2,345.
The arguments began in June 2006 and ended on April 10, 2007 .
The Special Investigation Team of Tamil Nadu Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department, which probed the cases, has argued that "Operation Allahu-Akbar", was part of a conspiracy to eliminate Advani.