“Aapko faansi ki sazaa se bari kiya jaata hai.” And with that Mirza Himayat Baig, who was convicted by a Sessions court of masterminding the German Bakery blast in Pune in 2010, was acquitted by the Bombay High Court on Thursday. He was, however, sentenced to life imprisonment for possession of explosives, forgery and cheating.
The bench, comprising justices Naresh Patil and SN Shukre, acquitted Baig of murder, attempt to murder, charges under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967, and conspiracy, but held him guilty under Section 5(B) of the Explosives Substances Act, 1908, for possession of explosives in suspicious conditions and carrying forged documents (Section 465 of the IPC).
Himayat Baig, the lone accused convicted in the 2010 German Bakery blast case by a Sessions court, will be shifted from the Arthur Road prison to the Nagpur jail. Pic/Bipin Kokate
“Baig has been acquitted in the German Bakery blast case and all terror charges against him are removed. The remaining life sentence will be challenged before the apex court,” said Mehmood Pracha, senior counsel and Baig’s representative.
Baig was arrested by the Maharashtra anti-terrorism squad (ATS) in September 2010, seven months after a bomb ripped through Pune’s landmark, killing 17 persons and injuring 60 others.
The ATS had claimed that Baig was a member of terrorist organisation LeT and had undergone arms training in Colombo. It had named Baig a conspirator of the blast and had claimed that RDX used in the blast had been found in his house in Beed, Marathwada. Pracha, however, told the HC that the explosives found in the house did not match those recovered from the blast site.
The statement of Yasin Bhatkal, the founder of the banned Indian Mujahideen who was arrested for planting the bomb at the bakery, had also helped bolster the defence’s case. He had said Baig had not accompanied him to the bakery, puncturing holes in ATS’ claim. According to Pracha, it was Qateel Siddiqui, another accused who was killed in prison in 2012, who went with Yasin to Pune.
Journalist and AAP leader Ashish Khaitan’s application in court, too, lent weight to the defence’s case. He had claimed to have carried out a sting operation, in which witnesses told him that they were coerced and tutored by the ATS to testify against Baig.
The defence had pointed out that there was no CCTV camera footage from the bakery and only Yasin was seen planting the bomb in other footage available. Pracha had also claimed that the ATS had doctored the footage.
The court also granted permission to move Baig from the Arthur Road prison to the Nagpur jail based on an application made by special public prosecutor Raja Thakare, who represented the state.
The truth has won and justice has been done to Baig.
— Hafiz Mohammed Nadim Siddiqui | President of Jamiat Ulama-e-Maharashtra that paid for Baig’s legal battle