35 convicts sentenced in Coimbatore blast case
Coimbatore, Oct 9: A court here pronounced sentences for 35 persons, who were convicted for their involvement in the 1998 Coimbatore serial bomb blasts.
The imprisonment for the 35 convicts varies from nine months to seven years.
Judge K Uthirapathi of the Sessions Court (Bomb Blast cases) set off the term against the period already spent by them as undertrials and ordered their release.
One of the accused, who has spent nine years in prison, said he had been framed.
"I was actually sentenced to three years in prison, but I have spent nine years in prison. None of the witnesses have spoken the truth so far. I just hope nobody faces a situation like this," said Abdul Saleem, an accused.
The charges against the 35 accused include attempt to murder, rioting, arson and possession of explosives.
The court posted pronouncement of sentence for 7 others to October 15 pending receipt of remand particulars.
In the case, 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.
Seventy accused were found guilty of major charges like criminal conspiracy and murder.
The date for pronouncement of their and five others' sentence would be fixed later.
On September 28, the court sentenced 41 persons to various terms of imprisonment, but released them after setting off their sentence period against the period already spent as undertrials.
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.
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 till date 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.