NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted four Hindu men, accused of bombing a train between India and Pakistan in 2007 that killed 68 people, including 44 innocent Pakistanis, citing a lack of evidence, defence lawyers said.
The Special National Investigation Agency (NIA) court in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh gave its verdict after dismissing a petition filed last week by the daughter of a Pakistani victim, who wanted to get her statement recorded as a witness.
The court acquitted all the four accused, including Swami Aseemnanad, who according to Pakistan was the main perpetrator and activist of Hindu terrorist organisation Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
“Prosecution has failed to prove the case so the court acquitted all of them,” lawyer Mukesh Garg told reporters outside the court. “The court first rejected the application from a Pakistani lady,” he added.
Aseemanand was jailed in 2010 after admitting his involvement in the attack on the train near Panipat, about 100 kilometres north of Delhi. He later said he had been tortured to give a false statement.
Two coaches of the Samjhauta Express, a bi-weekly train that runs between New Delhi and Lahore, caught fire late on February 19, 2007, after two improvised explosive devices exploded, according to a charge-sheet filed by the NIA in 2013. In all, the NIA had accused eight men of conducting the “dreadful terrorist act”.
Pakistan immediately condemned the ruling as a “travesty of justice”. India’s High Commissioner Ajay Bisaria was summoned to the Foreign Office to lodge Pakistan’s protest and condemnation against the acquittals, a statement issued by the Foreign Office in Islamabad said.
The acting Pakistani foreign secretary stressed that Pakistan had consistently raised the lack of progress and the subsequent, concerted attempts by India to exonerate the perpetrators of this heinous terrorist act.
The issue was raised repeatedly, including at the side-lines of the Heart of Asia meeting in 2016. Formal demarches were also lodged regularly with India on the lack of progress and acquittal of the accused in other cases,” it said.
“The acquittal of the accused today, 11 years after the heinous Samjhauta terror attacks makes a travesty of justice and exposes the sham credibility of the Indian courts,” the foreign office statement noted.
“It also belies the rampant Indian duplicity and hypocrisy where India reflexively levels allegations of terrorism against Pakistan, while protecting with impunity, terrorists who had publicly confessed to their odious crimes,” the statement added.
The acting foreign secretary emphasised that the systemic Indian decision to gradually exonerate and finally acquit the perpetrators, was not only a gross reflection of India’s callous insensitivity to the plight of the 44 families of the deceased Pakistanis but also reflective of the Indian state policy of promoting and protecting Hindu terrorists.
He called upon India to explore judicial remedies to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to justice.
With input from Reuters