AHMEDABAD: An Indian court on Wednesday convicted a former state minister of murder for her involvement in a massacre of Muslims during religious riots in Gujarat in 2002, a prosecutor said.
Maya Kodnani, who served as a minister in Gujarat’s Hindu nationalist state government from 2007-2009, was found guilty over the killing of 97 Muslims in the Naroda Patiya suburb of the city of Ahmedabad.
Prosecution lawyer Shamshad Pathan told AFP that, as well as murder, Kodnani was also convicted of conspiracy.
Out of 61 people facing charges including murder, criminal conspiracy and causing grievous hurt with deadly weapons, 32 had been found guilty and 29 acquitted, he added.
Kodnani, who served as child and human development minister under Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi until her arrest in 2009, broke down in tears, the lawyer said.
The violence in Gujarat was triggered by the deaths of nearly 60 Hindu pilgrims in a February 2002 train fire that was at first blamed on a mob.
Hindus hungry for revenge rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods across Gujarat in an orgy of violence that marked some of India’s worst religious riots since independence from Britain in 1947.
Human rights groups say more than 2,000 people, mainly Muslims, were hacked, beaten or burned to death.
Modi – a prominent figure in the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party and a possible future candidate for prime minister – was widely criticised for failing to stop the riots.
He has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
An inquiry by Modi’s Gujarat government concluded that the train burning which sparked the clashes was a conspiracy, but a federal probe later said it was an accident.
Wednesday’s verdicts came after final arguments in April following a trial that saw 327 witnesses called to give evidence.
In 2008, the Supreme Court ordered the re-investigation of nine of the most sensitive incidents during the riots, including the initial train fire and the violence in Naroda Patiya.