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Indian Court Convicts 31 for Triggering Anti-Muslim Riots


Indian policemen stand guard at Ahmedabad Central Jail, as a special court announces the verdict on a 2002 train burning case in Ahmadabad, India, February 22, 2011

Indian policemen stand guard at Ahmedabad Central Jail, as a special court announces the verdict on a 2002 train burning case in Ahmadabad, India, February 22, 2011

In India, a court has convicted 31 people of setting fire to a train which led to the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in 2002. The incident had sparked some of the deadliest sectarian violence seen in India.

Tuesday's verdict handed down by a special court in Ahmedabad found 31 people guilty of conspiracy and murder.

They were among 94 Muslims who stood trial for stopping a train and setting fire to it, nine years ago in Godhra town. Sixth three of them have been acquitted.

The fire, which claimed the lives of Hindu pilgrims, was blamed on a Muslim mob. It inflamed religious passions and triggered a wave of anti-Muslim rioting in Gujarat State. At least 1,000 people, mostly Muslims, were killed in some of the worst violence witnessed in India since independence.

Delivering its verdict, the court said that the attack on the train was planned.

J.M. Panchal is the special prosecutor in the case. "Conspiracy is accepted by the honorable court," Panchal said.

The Hindu Nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which rules Gujarat state, welcoms the judgment, saying that its position that the train had been deliberately set on fire has been vindicated.

The cause of the train fire has been widely disputed. Muslims have strongly denied that they were responsible, but some Hindu groups, like the BJP, blame a Muslim mob for targeting the train.

Official investigations failed to resolve the issue. One inquiry concluded that it was an accident ,saying that the fire began inside the train. But another inquiry differed with that view saying that there was a conspiracy to burn the train car.

The head of Gujarat state, Narendra Modi, is a top BJP leader and has been widely blamed for not doing enough to stop the deadly violence in the aftermath of the train fire.

Tuesday, as the judgment was handed down, authorities banned television stations and newspapers from showing images of the riots and deployed extra police.

The sentence will be announced later. Defense lawyers say they are likely to appeal the verdict.

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