A special Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act court on Thursday sentenced Tahir Merchant and Firoz Khan, two of the five convicts in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts case, to death. Two others, Abu Salem and Karimullah Khan, were sentenced to life imprisonment.
Salem was the mastermind of the blasts, along with Mustafa Dossa, who was extradited from the UAE. Dossa died of a heart attack after his conviction in June. Karimullah had facilitated the arms dealing and had complete knowledge of the conspiracy.
Tahir Merchant sent the executioners of the blast for weapons training to Pakistan, while Firoz Khan managed the landing of arms from Pakistan and managed the customs and police.
Here is a brief insight into what roles did the five convicts – Abu Salem, Karimullah Khan, Tahir Merchant, Firoz Khan and Riyaz Siddhiqui -- play in the 1993 Mumbai serial blasts that killed 257 people and left over 750 injured.
Tahir Merchant (Death Sentence)
Tahir Merchant facilitated the transport arrangements for the co-accused who were given weapon training in Pakistan. Calling him a ‘main conspirator’, the prosecutor said that he, along with Karimullah, arranged for their passports. The court said that in the initial stage of the planning of the blasts, he worked with the mastermind Tiger Memon and attended conspiracy meetings in Dubai.
Merchant also gathered funds to procure arms and planned to set up an illegal arms manufacturing factory in India.
Firoz Khan (Death Sentence)
Awarded death sentence by the court, Firoz was a prominent member of the Dossa gang and was actively involved in smuggling of arms and ammunition to India. He also attended several conspiracy meetings in Dubai and also managed the Custom agents to ensure safe landing of arms.
During the trial, he sought to become an approver. However, the court rejected his plea after the CBI claimed that it had enough evidence against all the accused and didn’t need any approver.
Abu Salem (Life Imprisonment)
The charges against Salem could have attracted death sentence for him. But since he was extradited from Portugal in 2005, a Lisbon court held that he cannot be awarded death here.
One of the masterminds of the attacks, Salem was a key member of the gang led by fugitive underworld don Dawood Ibrahim, and had worked in ‘close proximity’ with the main conspirators, Anees Ibrahim and Mustafa Dossa. He managed the transport of weapons from Gujarat to Mumbai and also gave an AK_56 rifle to actor Sanjay Dutt on January 16, 1993.
Hailing from Aazamgarh, UP, Salem used to work as a mechanic as he lost his father at a very young age. He later got in touch with Dawood when he moved to Mumbai to work as a taxi driver.
Karimullah Khan (Life Imprisonment)
Sentencing him to life imprisonment, the court said that he had complete knowledge of the conspiracy since he was part of the arms landing as well as one conspiracy meeting where Tiger Memon had discussed taking revenge of the riots.
Riyaz Siddhiqui (10 years jail)
Riyaz was charged with providing a vehicle to Salem for transporting the vehicles. The court, while sentencing him to life imprisonment, observed that the prosecution had failed to prove the charge of conspiracy against him, but he was convicted under Section 3 (3) of the TADA (P) Act.