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13 yrs after Gulberg massacre, trial is over, verdict awaited

A special court here today wrapped up the 13 rpt 13-year-old trial of 2002 Gulberg Society massacre in the city in which 69 persons of the minority community, including the former Congress MP Ehsan Jafri, were killed but no date has been set for the verdict.

It was among the most notorious incidents of violence during the post-Godhra riots in Gujarat.

Advocate S M Vora, representing the survivors of Gulberg massacre, today summed up his arguments before the trial judge P B Desai. The verdict will be pronounced in due course.

Vora said the attack on Gulberg Society followed a pre-planned criminal conspiracy. Such a conspiracy, as per the Supreme Court rulings, can only be proved by the conduct of the accused and not a direct evidence, he added.

All the accused who had gathered at Gulberg Society on February 28, 2002 (a day after the Godhra train burning incident in which 58 kar-sevaks had died), were chanting same slogans, provoking the fellow members of the majority community to eliminate the members of minority community, Vora said, adding that this showed a prior conspiracy.

Most of the accused were armed with inflammable liquids like petrol or kerosene, so there was a plan to set the houses in the upmarket residential society on fire, he said.

Conduct of the accused K G Erda, the then police inspector of Meghaninagar area, was suspicious as he did not stop the rioters from entering the society, Vora said.

A sting operation by former journalist Ashish Khetan showed three of the accused stating clearly that they had hatched a conspiracy. Moreover, none of them challenged the footage of the sting, the tapes of which had been examined by the forensic laboratory and declared as genuine, he said.

The judge has called the lawyers of the defence and the prosecution on September 28 to clear certain points.

During the six-year trial, 338 witnesses deposed. The case is one of the nine of the 2002 riots probed by the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team.

Of the 66 accused, nine are behind the bars for the last 13 years while others are out on bail.