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5 accused in Mecca Masjid blast case acquitted

 HYDERABAD, April 16 - A special anti-terror court today acquitted Hindutva preacher Swami Aseemanand and four others in the Mecca Masjid blast case, holding that the prosecution failed to prove “even a single allegation” against them.Barely hours after pronouncing the judgement, in a dramatic development, K Ravinder Reddy, the special judge for NIA cases, tendered his resignation, citing “personal” reasons.

Reddy said his resignation had nothing to do with today’s judgement, according to a senior judicial officer.

A powerful blast, triggered by remote control, had ripped through the over four centuries-old mosque here during an assembly of devotees on May 18, 2007 when they had gathered for Friday prayers, killing nine people and wounding 58.

“Prosecution (NIA) could not prove even a single allegation against any of the accused and all of them stand acquitted,” J P Sharma, the counsel for Aseemanand, told reporters after the verdict was pronounced by special judge for NIA cases K Ravinder Reddy.

The media was not allowed in the courtroom where the judgement was pronounced in the high-profile case, which was dubbed by the then UPA government as one of “Hindu terror”, a term that riled saffron organisations, including the BJP, no end.

Soon after the verdict, the NIA had come in for attack by opposition parties, including the Congress and AIMIM.

Apart from Aseemanand, those acquitted are – Devendra Gupta, Lokesh Sharma, Bharat Mohanlal Rateshwar alias Bharat Bhai and Rajendra Chowdhary.

Though there were 10 accused in the case, only these five were tried. Two other accused – Sandeep V Dange and Ramchandra Kalsangra – are absconding, while Sunil Joshi was murdered. Investigation is continuing against two others.

The bomb had exploded in an area of the mosque where devotees performed ablutions. Two more Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) were later found and defused by the police. – PTI

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