A special SIT court in Himmatnagar in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district on Friday acquitted six persons for lack of evidence in a 2002 post-Godhra riots case, in which three British nationals and another person were killed by a mob.
British citizens Saeed Dawood, Shakeel Dawood and Mohammad Aswat and their local driver Yusuf Suleiman were killed in the Prantij town in Gujarat’s Sabarkantha district on February 28, a day after the Sabarmati Express train burning incident.
According to the prosecution, they were travelling in a vehicle when they were intercepted by a mob and burnt alive. Another Briton, Imran Dawood, managed to escape with injuries. Imran and his three uncles were on a visit to India. They were returning from their native village of Lajpor near Navsari in Gujarat after visiting Agra and Jaipur.
The Supreme Court-appointed SIT had charged six persons Mithanbhai Patel, Chandu alias Prahlad Patel, Ramesh Patel, Manoj Patel, Rajesh Patel and Kalabhai Patel, all residents of Prantij, with murder and rioting. Principal District Judge I.C. Shah gave the benefit of the doubt to the accused as the prosecution was not able to prove the case “beyond reasonable doubt.”
The court rejected complainant Imran’s testimony as “doubtful” and “not believable” as he was “not sure” about the identity of the accused. His evidence “cannot be relied upon when it is also not corroborated by any other cogent evidence,” the court observed.
“Apart from the complainant’s non-cooperation, two eye-witnesses also turned hostile and did not support the prosecution’s case,” Special Public Prosecutor R.C. Kodekar told The Hindu.
The court concluded: “ … It seems there is no evidence on record from which it can be believed that the accused were members of unlawful assembly and involved in the commission of the crime.”