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Death sentences handed down in Gujarat riot trial

Reuters/Amit Dave

The 31 Muslims found guilty last week on murder and conspiracy charges in connection with a fire on a train carrying Hindu pilgrims have been handed 11 death sentences and 20 life terms. Fifty nine Hindu pilgrims died in the blaze at Godhra station in 2002.  

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The incident sparked an anti-Muslim backlash that resulted in some of the worst religious violence the country had seen. Revenge attacks on Muslim neighbourhoods killed some 2,000.

Special Public Prosecutor J.M.Panchal, told reporters outside the court that the judge ruled the crimes fell "under the category of the rarest of the rare".

Responsibility for the blaze has been the subject of fierce debate between the country's Hindu and Muslim communities. The trial verdict supports Hindu claims that it was a planned attack. A previous national enquiry found that the fire was an accident.

Defence lawyer, I.M.Munshi says the accused will appeal against the sentences.

Local police were on duty across Gujarat to deal with any outbreaks of violence following the verdicts but no unrest was reported.

A total of 94 people all Muslims went on trial in Gujarat's biggest city of Ahmedabad where they have been held since 2002.

The judge acquitted 63 of them including the Maulvi Umarji who was accused of being the mastermind behind the attack.

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