Five men who were accused in the 1996 Samleti blast case were on Monday acquitted by the Jaipur High Court after 23 years as the prosecution could not establish any link between them and the main accused, Dr Abdul Hameed, whose death sentence was upheld, reported the Indian Express.
At 5:19 pm on Tuesday, Latif Ahmed Baja (42), Ali Bhatt (48), Mirza Nisar (39), Abdul Goni (57) and Rayees Beg (56), stepped out of prison; Beg had been incarcerated since June 8, 1997, while the others were imprisoned between June 17, 1996 and July 27, 1996. During this time, they were lodged in jails in Delhi and Ahmedabad, but were never released on parole or bail.
After their release Tuesday, the five men said they didn’t know each other until the Criminal Investigation Department (Crime Branch) made them an accused in the case. While Beg is a resident of Agra, Goni is from Doda district of Jammu and Kashmir, and the others are from Srinagar. Before they were jailed, Bhatt had a carpet business, Baja used to sell Kashmiri handicraft in Delhi and Kathmandu, Nisar was a Class IX student and Goni used to run a school.
“We have no idea about the world we are stepping into,” says Goni. “We’ve lost relatives while we were inside. My mother, father and two uncles passed away. We have been acquitted, but who will bring back those years,” says Beg, adding that his sister has since got married and his niece is now about to get married too.
The case dates back to May 22, 1996, when a bomb blast in a bus near Samleti village in Dausa, on the Jaipur-Agra highway, killed 14 people and injured 37 others; the bus was headed to Bikaner from Agra. The blast came a day after the Lajpat Nagar bomb blast in Delhi, in which 13 people were killed.
The chargesheet had said the men were associated with the Jammu Kashmir Liberation Front and claimed some of them were also involved in the Sawai Man Singh Stadium blast in Jaipur in 1996. “They were named in multiple cases without any basis. They have been acquitted in all the cases — but after 23 years,” says their counsel, Shahid Hasan. Pointing to the delay, he says the trial only began in 2011.