In this photograph taken Oct. 30, 2005, an Indian woman consoles her relative, the mother of a girl killed Oct. 29, 2005, when a blast ripped through the Paharganj area of New Delhi. An Indian court Feb. 16 cleared three defendants over a series of bomb blasts in New Delhi in 2005 that killed 62 people ahead of the Hindu festival of lights, Diwali, in October 2005. (MANAN VATSYAYANA/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW DELHI — Over 11 years after three bombs exploded in crowded Delhi markets killing 67 people two days before Diwali, a Delhi court Feb. 16 acquitted three Kashmiris accused in the case for lack of evidence. The court pulled up Delhi Police for its failure to prove any links between the accused and the 2005 serial blasts.

The court, while acquitting all three of the bombings, convicted one of them for the minor crime of having links with the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The serial blasts occurred in the crowded market places of Sarojini Nagar, Kalkaji and Paharganj, rocking the city on Oct. 29, 2005, two days before Diwali when the markets were crowded with shoppers.

Additional sessions judge Reetesh Singh acquitted Mohammed Hussain Fazili and Mohammed Rafiq Shah of all charges. However, the third accused, Tariq Ahmed Dar, who worked with a private company, was sentenced to jail for the period already undergone since his arrest on Nov. 10, 2005, for being a member of LeT.

This means all three will walk free. The Delhi Police may decide to appeal the verdict.

The prosecution had accused the three of waging war against the state, conspiring, collecting arms, murder and attempt to murder. Had they been proven, the charges could have invited life imprisonment or even death.

"There was no link to establish that the accused were part of any conspiracy related to the blast(s)," the judge said in his verdict.

"The prosecution has not been able to prove any link between Fazili and Shah on the one hand and Dar on the other. The contents of these (telephonic) conversations therefore fall short in enabling this court to come to any definite conclusion that Dar was part of the conspiracy behind theses blasts," the court said.

"Therefore, in the absence of any evidence regarding Dar being involved in the conspiracy behind these blasts, none of the charges framed against him...are made out."

The court said the prosecution had "miserably" failed to prove that Shah was involved in planting one of the bombs in a bus in south Delhi.

All three of the accused were picked up in Nov. 2005 and have been in Tihar jail ever since.

Shah's parents expressed happiness with the judgement but lamented that it was "too late" as their son had spent 11 years in jail.

"It was God's mercy that came as blessing in the court judgement. The Almighty has heard our prayers. Thanks to Allah," his mother Mehmooda said outside the Patiala House court room.

Shah was 22 when he was arrested.

The families of victims, however, expressed extreme disappointment over the verdict.

They said they were expecting the court to punish the accused with death and that they will challenge the verdict in a higher court.

"It is really a disappointment. I want justice. I lost my son, daughter-in-law and grandson," sobbed Srina Das outside the courtroom.

She told IANS that she wanted closure to the plight of "losing loved ones" who had gone to buy Diwali gifts "but never returned."

In a related case, however, the court observed that Dar had received over Rs. 14 lakh through a hawala channel by Farooque Ahmed Batloo and Ghulam Ahmed Khan.

In his verdict, the judge said that there is "nothing to show that this (hawala) fund had been received for the purposes of the terrorist acts."

The court noted that while Batloo and Ahmed Khan had pleaded guilty earlier, no confession had been recorded by the police.

The court observed that the police needed to probe the hawala charges against Dar independently and pulled up the police for not making any efforts to verify the sources of his remittances.

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