MUMBAI: A special MCOCA court on Tuesday sentenced Lashkar-e-Taiba operative and 26/11 Mumbai attacks plotter Sayed Zabiuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal and six others to life imprisonment in the 2006 Aurangabad arms haul case.

Two other convicts were sentenced to 14 years of jail while 3 convicts were jailed for eight years.

Eight of the 22 accused were acquitted, one faces a separate trial and another is on the run.

While the MCOCA charges against all of them were dropped, convicts were found guilty under different sections of the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA), the Explosive Substances Act, the Explosives Act and the Indian Penal Code.

The cache of 43kg of RDX, 10 AK-47 assault rifles, 3,200 live cartridges and 50 hand grenades were sourced from Pakistan and were intended for attacks on then Gujarat CM Narendra Modi and Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia to avenge the 2002 Gujarat riots, observed special judge S L Anekar. The accused had worked to strike terror by carrying out jihad, the court added.

The arms and ammunition were intercepted by the state ATS after a chase on a highway near Aurangabad after a tip-off.

 In his ruling, special judge Anekar relied on the confession statements of three accused, all of whom were found guilty and significantly included Faisal Shaikh.

The trial in the case — conducted mostly at the special court housed on the premises of the Arthur road jail — started in right earnest in 2013 after Zabihuddin Ansari alias Abu Jundal was handed over by Saudi Arabia. The trial could not begin earlier as key accused Mohammed Amir Shakeel Ahmed challenged the slapping of MCOCA in the Supreme Court. In 2009, the SC vacated the stay, but the trial did not move for the next few years with several applications such as bail pleas being heard. A supplementary chargesheet was filed on November 3, 2012, naming Jundal as the main conspirator along with absconding accused Fayaz Kagzi.

In June 2015, while rejecting the bail plea of one of the accused, the SC directed the trial court to expedite the trial.After the conviction verdict last Thursday, each convict was allowed to come before the judge and present their circumstances for seeking leniency. Last was Jundal. Dressed in a white formal shirt and black trousers, Jundal, accused as one of the handlers of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai, told the court how he had suffered mentally and physically during his incarceration since 2012. Seeking leniency, he claimed that his sister, who was married with great difficulty, was divorced after three months as her husband could not come to terms with the stigma of Jundal’s arrest.

Special public prosecutor Vaibhav Bagade had sought the maximum sentence against the convicts . Bagade said the maximum sentence that the accused convicted under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act (UAPA) is life imprisonment.

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