The Two-Way
5:52 pm
Thu March 21, 2013

Indian Supreme Court Upholds Prison Sentence For Bollywood Star Linked To Blasts

Twenty years after multiple blasts ripped through India's commercial capital, Mumbai, killing more than 200 people, the country's Supreme Court has upheld the conviction of a leading Bollywood actor for his role in the attacks.

Sanjay Dutt was charged with possessing an AK-56 assault rifle and a pistol that were given to him by men who were later convicted for their role in the serial blasts in 1993. Dutt has already served 18 months of his original six-year prison sentence, but was released in 2007 pending an appeal. The Indian Supreme Court on Thursday reduced his sentence by a year, but ordered him to report to prison within the next month to serve out the remainder of his 3 1/2-year term.

Dutt has maintained that he'd asked for the guns for protection for his family. In a statement Thursday, he said he was "heartbroken."

"I have already suffered for 20 years and been in jail for 18 months," he said. "If they want me to suffer more, I have to be strong. I believe in the judicial system of India."

Here's more from The Associated Press about other rulings Thursday:

"A total of 100 people were convicted of involvement in the blasts.

"The court upheld the death sentence given to Yakub Memon, who is a brother of Ibrahim 'Tiger' Memon, a suspected mastermind of the bombings who remains at large. However, the court commuted to life in prison the death sentences given to 10 other men convicted of carrying out the blasts. Some of the men have been in prison for nearly two decades."

India's Supreme Court also accused Pakistan of not doing enough to "prevent acts of terrorism" from its soil, but Islamabad denied that charge.

Here's some background to the story: Over a two-hour period on March 12, 1993, 13 blasts ripped through different parts of Mumbai, including its stock exchange; 257 people died and more than 700 were wounded. The blasts were seen as retaliation for the demolition by Hindu nationalists of a 16th century mosque in the northern Indian city of Ayodhya. Riots after the mosque's demolition killed more than 800 people.

Here's more from the BBC about the blasts and Dutt's role in them:

"The son of a Hindu father and Muslim mother, Dutt said the weapons were necessary in order to defend his family during the Hindu-Muslim rioting of 1993 which had followed the destruction by Hindu zealots of the Babri mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya.

"The Mumbai blasts were allegedly carried out by the city's Muslim-dominated underworld in retaliation for the riots, in which most of those killed were Muslims.

"The man who is believed to have masterminded the plot, underworld leader Dawood Ibrahim, has still not been caught.

"India says he and another key suspect, Tiger Memon, are hiding in Pakistan — a charge Pakistan denies."

Dutt — the son of actors himself — is among India's more popular actors, probably best known for a series of comedies in which he plays a lovable gangster who espouses the nonviolence of Mohandas Gandhi. Indian media reports say he's currently involved in film projects worth nearly $50 million.

Reaction to Thursday's verdict was mixed. Survivors and families of the victims called the judgment overdue, but there were also appeals for a pardon for Dutt.

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