India court convicts 24 over 2002 Gujarat riots massacre

File photo of the 2002 Gujarat riots. Photo: AFP

An Indian court convicted two dozen people today over a massacre during religious riots 14 years ago when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was chief minister of Gujarat state.

A judge acquitted 36 others for lack of evidence over the killing of 69 Muslims sheltering in a residential complex in the city of Ahmedabad during the riots.

The riots have long dogged Modi, who as chief minister of the state was accused of turning a blind eye to the pogrom in which more than 1,000 people died.

The attack was one of many killings across Gujarat triggered by the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims in a train fire on February 27, 2002 that was initially blamed on Muslims.

Hindus angry for revenge rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in some of India’s worst religious riots since independence from Britain and partition in 1947.

An investigative panel appointed by the Supreme Court concluded in 2012 that there was no evidence to charge Modi himself and he has always denied any wrongdoing.

More than 100 people have already been convicted over the riots, including one of Modi’s former ministers who was jailed for instigating one of the worst massacres.

The current trial began in 2009 after the Supreme Court ordered a reinvestigation into some of the worst incidents during the riots, including the Gulbarg Society massacre.

But one year later the Supreme Court issued a stay on any verdict after a petition seeking a probe into whether Modi and others played a role in the Gulbarg massacre.

The Supreme Court only lifted its order last year when a lower court rejected an appeal echoing the petition.


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