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Samjhauta blast case: Swami Aseemanand, 3 others acquitted

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: March 20, 2019  | 22:13 IST

Panchkula (Har), Mar 20 (PTI) A special court here Wednesday acquitted Swami Aseemanand and three others in the Samjhauta Express blast case which had left 68 people, mostly Pakistanis, dead in 2007. “All the four accused, Naba Kumar Sarkar alias Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary have been acquitted by the court,” NIA counsel Rajan Malhotra said. The blast in the India-Pakistan train took place near Panipat in Haryana on February 18, 2007, when it was on its way to Attari in Amritsar, the last station on the Indian side. Aseemanand, who was already out on bail, and three others, who were in judicial custody were present in the court when NIA special judge Jagdeep Singh pronounced the verdict. Before giving the verdict, the judge dismissed the plea filed by a Pakistani woman for examining some eyewitnesses from her country. “The court ruled that the plea of the Pakistani woman was devoid of any merit,” Malhotra said. “As soon as we get a copy of the judgement, we will examine it and decide on the next course of action,” he added Pakistani woman Rahila Wakeel's counsel Momin Malik too said he would decuide on the next course of action after talking to his client. "We will explore next course of action after I speak to my client,” he said. He added that he was expecting the court to defer the verdict on the blast case after giving its verdict on his client's plea. After the verdict, the 67-year-old saffron-clad Aseemanand emerged from the court with folded hands. Aseemanand was earlier acquitted in two other terror cases - the May 2007 bombing at Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad and the October 2007 blasts at Ajmer Sharif Dargah in Rajastahan. The February 2007 blasts in Samjhautha Express had ripped apart two coaches of the cross-border train, connecting New Delhi to Lahore. The Haryana police had registered a case, but the probe was handed over to the National Investigation Agency in July 2010. The NIA had filed a charge sheet in July 2011 against eight persons for their alleged roles in the terror attack. Of the eight, Swami Aseemanand, Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary appeared before the court and faced trial. Sunil Joshi, the alleged mastermind of the attack, was shot dead near his home in Madhya Pradesh's Dewas district in December 2007. The three other accused -- Ramchandra Kalsangra, Sandeep Dange and Amit -- could not be arrested and were declared proclaimed offenders. The NIA had charged the accused with murder and criminal conspiracy, and under the Explosive Substances Act and the Railways Act. The judgment comes after 12 years after the terror attack. Aseemanand's counsel Mukesh Garg said, “The court has said that the NIA has failed to prove any of its charges against the accused and the evidence against them was treated as not sufficient. Therefore, the court acquitted them.” There were 299 witnesses in the case and 224 of them were examined. “There was not one witness who identified the accused,” Garg further said. “The accused were implicated in this case under a conspiracy,” he said, adding that the accused were implicated in this case under a conspiracy. “We had been maintaining right from the start that he was not an accused but a victim of political terrorism,” said Manbir Rathi, another counsel of Aseemanand. According to the NIA chargesheet, the accused were upset with terror attacks on Hindu temples - Akshardham (Gujarat), Raghunath Mandir (Jammu) and Sankat Mochan Mandir (Varanasi). They conspired to seek "revenge", the NIA had argued. The NIA had claimed the accused were given training in Madhya Pradesh and Haryana's Faridabad for making bombs and firing pistols. The NIA had claimed that Sunil Joshi had planned the attack and the suitcase bombs were planted by Lokesh Sharma, Kamal Chauhan and Rajinder Chaudhary and Amit. Special Judge Jagdeep Singh of the anti-terror court had earlier sentenced Dera Sacha Sauda chief Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh in rape case in 2017. PTI SUN CHS VSD SKL ASH RAX RAX

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