NEW DELHI: Bollywood superstar Salman Khan urged India’s top court on Sunday to spare the life of a convicted bomb plotter due to be hanged this week, declaring him innocent on Twitter and in the process sparking a political furore.
The Supreme Court is expected to hear a last-ditch appeal on Monday from Yakub Memon, who has been convicted of being a key player in a series of bomb blasts that killed hundreds in Mumbai two decades ago.
The court had last week rejected what was believed at the time to be a final appeal from Memon, paving the way for his execution on Thursday. But his lawyers lodged the last-minute appeal, saying his execution date of July 30 had been set unlawfully back in April, before all legal avenues to appeal were exhausted.
Salman described Memon as innocent, sparking protests outside his house. “One innocent man killed is [like] killing the humanity,” the actor wrote on Twitter, where he has 13.1 million followers. “Get Tiger, hang him. Parade him not his brother,” he added, referring to Memon’s brother, who the police believe is the mastermind of the attacks.
Salman posted about a dozen tweets in which he said the wrong man was being hung for the crimes of his brother, whom he described as a fox who ran away. He later deleted his tweets after uproar from the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the opposition and a prosecutor involved in the case.
Police strengthened security outside his residence in the afternoon as flag-carrying, slogan-shouting members of the local BJP held a demonstration outside his home. Some of them were detained.
“The Supreme Court gave its verdict on hardcore evidence and none of us are in a position to undermine the verdict,” said a BJP spokeswoman, Shaina NC.
In the evening, Salman tweeted: “I would like to unconditionally apologise for any misunderstanding I may have created unintentionally. I have not said or implied that Yakub Memon is innocent. I have complete faith in the judicial system of our country.”
Published in The Express Tribune, July 27th, 2015.