NEW DELHI: An Indian court is expected to deliver its verdict Thursday on 62 people accused of a massacre during religious riots which swept Gujarat state 14 years ago, a prosecutor said.
They are charged with murder, rioting, criminal conspiracy and arson over the deaths of 69 Muslims sheltering in a residential complex in the city of Ahmedabad.
The riots have long dogged Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who as chief minister of the state was accused of turning a blind eye to the pogrom in which more than 1,000 people died.
Public prosecutor RC Kodekar said a verdict was expected on Thursday following a drawn-out trial that has been delayed for so long by appeals that six of the original accused have died.
Kodekar said Wednesday he was seeking life in prison for all 62 accused of storming the Gulbarg Society complex, hacking to death and burning the Muslims hiding there.
“The judge PB Desai has fixed June 2 to pronounce the judgement against 62 accused in the case. We have sought maximum punishment for all of the accused,” Kodekar told AFP.
The attack was one of many killings across Gujarat triggered by the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire on February 27, 2002 that was initially blamed on Muslims.
Hindus angry for revenge rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in some of India’s worst religious riots since independence from Britain and partition in 1947.
An investigative panel appointed by the Supreme Court concluded in 2012 that there was no evidence to charge Modi himself and he has always denied any wrongdoing.
More than 100 people have already been convicted over the riots, including one of Modi’s former ministers who was jailed for instigating one of the worst massacres.
The current trial began in 2009 after the Supreme Court ordered a reinvestigation into some of the worst incidents during the riots, including the Gulbarg Society massacre.
But one year later the Supreme Court issued a stay on any verdict after a petition seeking a probe into whether Modi and others played a role in the Gulbarg massacre.
The Supreme Court only lifted its order last year when a lower court rejected an appeal echoing the petition.
The 62 accused, most of whom are on bail, do not include any former officials or ministers from Modi’s then-government.