First witness in separate trials of 93 blasts fails to depose

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Mumbai, Apr 16 (UNI) The prosecution today failed to produce the first witness in separate trials against extradited gangsters -- Abu Salem, Mustafa Dossa alias Mustafa Majnu and others--in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case.

Designated TADA Judge P D Kode, who was yesterday transferred and appointed as principal sessions judge, after attending the proceedings in the sessions court, began with the proceedings of separate trials here at Arthur Road Jail.

CBI informed the court that the immigration officer, who had handed over the custody of Salem to CBI, cannot depose before the court as he is out of station. Following this, the court deferred the trials up to April 22.

TADA court has still not got any notification regarding who will carry out the separate trials. Hence, till the appointment of a new judge the trials will be carried out by Judge Kode.

During the first phase of the trial after convicting 100 accused in July last year, the court had ordered separate trials for Dossa, Salem and his two associates -- Riyaz Siddiqui and Abdul Qaum Ansari -- as they were arrested towards the end of the trial. They are presently lodged at the Arthur Road Jail.

The convicted persons include members of the Memon family, who had masterminded the blasts, and Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt for possessing one 9 mm pistol, an AK-56 assault rifle and its magazines. While the main conspirators--fugitive don Dawood Ibrahim and Tiger Memon -- are still absconding.

The court had earlier turned down a CBI plea to club together the trials of Salem, Dossa, Siddiqui and Ansari.

Dossa, who was deported from Dubai on March 20, 2003, had allegedly participated actively in the blasts' conspiracy and the landing of weapons in Maharashtra's Raigad district prior to the blasts on March 12, 1993 that had left 257 people dead and 574 injured.

As per the evidence so far produced before the court, Dossa had not given any confessional statement, but he was named by various convicts like Salim Mira Shaikh for his involvement in the crime.

Salem, who was extradited from Portugal in 2005, allegedly delivered an AK-56 rifle at the residence of Dutt and various other weapons to the co-accused. Siddiqui and Ansari, too, are accused of delivering weapons at different places.

CBI had recorded the statement of Salem, in which he had confessed to the crime. Also, Dutt and other convicts had named him and his associates for the role they played in the blasts.

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