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3 Sentenced to Death for Attack on Indian Parliament - 2002-12-18

An Indian anti-terrorism court has sentenced three men to death on charges related to an attack on the Indian parliament, last year. A female co-defendant was sentenced to five years in prison.

Earlier this week, Justice S.N. Dhingra convicted three of the four defendants of waging war against the state and of plotting to assassinate the prime minister, interior minister and other officials. Wednesday, the judge sentenced the three to death by hanging.

The fourth defendant, who is the wife of one of the three men, was found guilty of not disclosing information to the police and was sentenced to five years imprisonment.

None of the four took part in the attack on parliament, last December, that killed 14 people, including the five gunmen who carried it out. However, the four were found guilty of helping to plan the attack.

The defendents were tried and convicted under a new anti-terrorism law. The three men sentenced to death were also given life terms, which they will serve if their death sentences are overturned on appeal.

All four are Indian citizens. Indian prosecutors say two of the men - Mohammed Azfal and Shaukat Hussain - are from Indian Kashmir and belong to Jaish-e-Mohammed, a hardline Islamic militant organization. The third man sentenced to death, Abdul Rehman Geelani, was a college professor in New Delhi.

Indian prosecutors have charged three others in the parliament attack, including Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, who was released from months of house arrest last week by a Pakistani court. It said Pakistani authorities failed to justify his detention.

India has long claimed the attack on its parliament was backed by Pakistan, a charge Pakistan strongly denies. Both countries mobilized hundreds of thousands of troops in the months following the attack.