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Court Convicts Hindus for Killing Muslims

November 24, 2003

AHMADABAD, India (AP) _ A court convicted 12 Hindus of killing Muslims during religious rioting in western India last year that left more than 1,000 people dead, an official said Monday.

Three other people were convicted of lesser charges, including assault and rioting, at the district court in Nadiad, 25 miles south of Ahmadabad, in the western Indian state of Gujarat, said state prosecutor Paresh Dhore.

The court acquitted 48 others accused of the killings in Ghodasar, a village near Nadiad.

The sentences will be handed down Tuesday, said Judge C. K. Rane. Those convicted of murder could face life imprisonment.

The 14 victims, all Muslims, were hacked to death March 3, 2002, after they were found hiding in the fields by a Hindu mob as the state was in the throes of fierce religious riots. Witnesses said a mob of nearly 7,000 people surrounded Ghodasar before the massacre.

Villager Bashir Pathan, whose two uncles were among the 14 victims, said Monday’s verdict brought little consolation.

``Whatever be the verdict, the loss that I suffered is irreversible,″ Pathan said. ``Even now, we live under constant threat of retaliation.″

Defense attorneys Manish Shah and R.M. Sarvaiya said they would appeal.

Rioting swept through Gujarat last year after Muslims set fire to a train carrying Hindu religious pilgrims, killing 60. Most of the more than 1,000 victims of the riots were Muslims.

Gujarat’s Hindu nationalist government and police were accused of failing to stop attacks on Muslims, and in many cases turning a blind eye when Hindu mobs attacked and killed Muslims and set their homes on fire.

Last week, India’s Supreme Court reportedly halted trials in 10 cases related to the Gujarat riots to ensure justice.

Three Supreme Court judges said they were unhappy with the way the trials were being conducted, including allowing perpetrators of hate crimes to remain free on bail and witnesses to reverse their testimony, Press Trust of India news agency reported.

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