Mirza Himayat Baig, the lone convicted accused in the 2010 German Bakery bombing that killed 17 and wounded 58, was on Thursday sentenced to death for murder and criminal conspiracy by the sessions court at Shivajinagar, which termed his crime as “rarest of rare”.
Special Judge NP Dhote awarded five concurrent death sentences to Baig alias Ahmed Baig Inayat Mirza alias Hasan alias Yusuf, for five charges slapped against him.
The court had on April 15 pronounced him, the only person arrested in the blast at the popular eatery, of guilty of involvement in the crime. Six others named in the chargesheet, including Yasin Bhatkal who is alleged to have planted the bomb, are absconding.
Judge Dhote observed in the judgement, “Undoubtedly, the present crime is also against humanity and committed to undermine the image and security of the country.” The court also observed, “From the proved circumstances, the offences fall under the rarest of rare cases. In the wake of proved facts and circumstances of the case and taking into consideration the observation made by the honourable apex court, the only punishment Baig deserves is death penalty.”
The police had deployed unprecedented security on the court campus and inside the courtroom since morning.
About 100 policemen in uniform and plain clothes led by deputy commissioner of police Makrand Ranade, two assistant commissioners of police and over a dozen inspectors were deployed. Parking of vehicles was banned on the court premises and people’s handbags and briefcases were searched and they had to pass through metal detectors before entering the courtroom.
The courtroom was crammed with lawyers, media persons and people curious to know the punishment awarded. Baig, who wore a cream coloured shirt and grey trousers, was escorted to the court by the anti-terrorism squad (ATS) sleuths around 11 am.
Baig, who had looked composed when pronounced guilty three days ago, sat in a corner of the courtroom with the ATS officers, anxiety writ large on his face. When the proceedings began, he was summoned to the dock and asked if he wanted to say anything. Baig broke down, claiming he was innocent and had been falsely implicated in the case.
Special public prosecutor Raja Thakare and defence lawyer A Rehman then presented their arguments on the quantum of punishment.
Thakare asked for death penalty for Baig, saying, “This is no ordinary murder. It is terrorism with international ramifications as the blast claimed the lives of 17 people including five foreigners. Baig’s young age hardly matters as Kasab was just 23 when hanged.”
Rehman prayed to the court to be lenient towards Baig saying his client was a young and well-educated teacher without any criminal past. He came from a poor family and had no motive or direct involvement in the blast. Further, he had been convicted solely on circumstantial evidence, Rehman added.
The arguments went on for two hours. Baig kept on toying with his handcuffs and wiping sweat on his forehead. The court was adjourned till 5 pm after the arguments. Meanwhile, a group of 50 people gathered outside the court, demanding death penalty for Baig.
Baig was brought back to the court at 4.45 pm and he looked more composed. At 4.50 pm, the court started reading the operative order. While judge Dhote was reading the order, Baig kept looking down. But the moment the judge finished reading the order and he was taken to the dock, he almost collapsed on the bench. He told the police that he was feeling uneasy. Later, he talked to his lawyers for 15 minutes.
Baig was escorted back to the jail by the ATS officers and Pune police personnel. After he stepped out of the court building, he fainted. The policemen sprinkled water on his face and brought him back to senses. His lawyers, Kayanath Shaikh and Munnavar Sayed, rushed to him and assured him that they would move an appeal in the high court and try their best for his release or get the punishment reduced. After that, Baig was taken away in the waiting police van.
Meanwhile, celebrations began outside the court premises. Pune Bar Association president Rajendra Umap distributed sweets, while other members of the bar association burst fire crackers.