Publish: 21 Apr 2023, 12:46 pm
An Indian court acquitted 68 people, including a former minister, on Thursday over the deaths of 11 Muslims in religious riots in Gujarat in 2002 when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was state premier.
The violence in the western state killed at least 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, in an orgy of bloodshed after 59 Hindu pilgrims died in a train fire, reports AFP.
Hindu nationalist Modi, who went on to become prime minister in 2014, was accused of turning a blind eye and was subjected to a US travel ban for a time. He was cleared of the violence in 2012.
The trial, which ended on Thursday with the acquittal of a former state minister and two senior members of hardline Hindu groups, centred on the deaths of 11 Muslims and lasted 14 years.
The accused and their supporters chanted Hindu slogans after they were cleared of the charges of murder, attempted murder and rioting, and several broke down in tears outside the court in Ahmedabad.
The ex-minister, Maya Kodnani, was previously sentenced to life imprisonment over another incident in the riots when 97 people were killed, but she was later acquitted.
The trial was the last to conclude out of a clutch of cases launched after India's top court ordered new investigations. In total, 188 people have been convicted and 313 acquitted.
Eleven people jailed over the murder of 14 Muslims were freed last August. Bilkis Bano, a woman who was gang-raped but survived the attack, has filed an appeal against their release with the Supreme Court.
Shama Mohamed from the Congress opposition party tweeted on Thursday that the "justice system in Gujarat is a sham!"
Thirty-one Muslims were earlier convicted of criminal conspiracy and murder over the train fire that sparked the riots.
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