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India court convicts 24 over 2002 Gujarat riots massacre

Eleven of the suspects were convicted for murder while 36 were acquitted due to a lack of evidence. Sentencing is expected to follow in a week on the crimes in the state Prime Minister Modi then governed.

Indien Ahmadabad Beschuldigter Massaker im Bundesstaat Gujarat

One of those accused of the attacks

The massacre occurred during religious riots 14 years ago when 69 Muslims, including former parliamentarian Ehsan Jafri, were killed while hiding out at the Gulbarg Society complex in the city of Ahmedabad during the riots. The massacre was one of the single worst incidents of a series of riots that swept across Gujarat, killing more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.

The riots had broken out after a train carrying Hindu nationalists was set on fire on February 27, 2002, killing at least 59 Hindu pilgrims. Muslims were blamed for the incident.

Indische Städte - Ahmedabad

The city of Ahmedabad was at the heart of the 2002 riots, in which more than 1,000 people were killed

Judge P. B. Desai said that sentencing would follow next week. India retains the death penalty for a number of serious offences, including murder. Prosecutors are seeking a minimum of a life sentence for all those accused of burning and hacking Muslims to death during the incident.

Thirty-six others were acquitted for lack of evidence. A prominent Hindu nationalist party leader, Bipin Patel, was also acquitted. More than 300 witnesses gave evidence during the yearslong trial. Several of the originally accused died during lengthy judicial delays.

Modi's role

India's current Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat state at the time. Several groups, including Muslim leaders and human rights movements, have accused Modi's Hindu nationalist government of turning a blind eye and failing to interfere to stop the violence.

India's Supreme Court said, however, that it has found

no evidence to prosecute him for the attacks

.

'Incomplete justice'

Celebrations erupted in the courtroom after the verdicts were read out, with victims and their families thanking the judge. Lawmaker Ehsan Jafri's widow Zakia Jafri, however, said that while she welcomed the verdicts, she was not pleased about the 36 acquittals.

"I am happy 24 accused were convicted but sad that 36 others have been acquitted. This is incomplete justice, and I will fight till the end," she told reporters.

Lengthy trials and questionable convictions

India's judicial system is notorious for suffering lengthy delays, especially in high-profile cases.

The first conviction relating to the series of mob riots in 2002 came 10 years later, when Maya Kodnani, a former government minister, and 31 others were convicted on charges ranging from rioting to murder. They had been involved in an attack that killed 95 people in a small industrial town on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Kodnani was sentenced to 28 years in prison, but has been freed on bail while her appeal continues to be being heard by a higher court.

The events have been dubbed India's worst religious riots since the country gained independence from Britain and the partition in 1947. More than 100 people have already been convicted over the riots.

ss/msh (AP, AFP)

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