A special court in Mumbai on Monday discharged all nine Muslim youths charge-sheeted in the 2006 Malegaon serial blasts case, a defence lawyer said. They included one who died recently.
"The Special MCOCA Court's verdict came this (Monday) afternoon on the discharge application filed by all the nine accused in that case. They have been discharged," advocate Shahid Nadeem Ansari told IANS.
Of the nine accused, Shabbir Ahmed Masiullah died in an accident a few months back, he said.
All of them had spent a minimum five years in jail after they were arrested.
The eight Muslim youths discharged by the Special MCOCA Court judge were -- Noor-ul Huda Samsudha, Raees Ahmed Rajabali Mansuri, Salman Farsi Abdul Latif Aimi, Farogh Iqbal Ahmed Magdumi, Shaikh Mohammed Ali Alam, Asif Bashir Khan, M. Zahid Abdul Majid Ansari and Abrar Ahmed Ghulam Ahmed.
They were arrested and later charge-sheeted for the September 8, 2006, blasts near a Muslim cemetery and a mosque during afternoon prayers on Shab-e-Baraat holy day, when special prayers are held for the dead.
The bombs which were planted on two bicycles parked there triggered loud explosions that were followed by a stampede which left 37 dead and over 100 injured.
The organisations suspected to be behind the blasts and were probed included Lashkar-e-Taiba, Students Islamic Movement of India (SIMI), and Jaish-e-Mohammed.
All the accused, including some who were allegedly linked to the banned SIMI, applied for bail and were subsequently freed on November 16, 2011.
At the previous hearing on April 12, National Investigation Agency (NIA) lawyer Prakash Shetty informed the special judge that the court should take a decision on the discharge plea of the accused.
The NIA, which had taken over the investigation from the Maharashtra Anti Terrorist Squad (ATS) and Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), submitted that it had found no evidence to link the nine accused with the blasts, paving the way for their discharge on Monday.
At an earlier hearing on the discharge application in 2014, the NIA had raised doubts on the ATS and CBI case against the nine accused, and sought their discharge, lawyer Ansari said.
The NIA said it did not object to the discharge applications since the evidence collected by it was not "in consonance" with the evidences collected by the ATS and then the CBI, which had recommended the prosecution of the nine accused.
Malegaon, a sensitive Muslim-dominated town around 300 km northeast of Mumbai, was rocked by another blast on September 29, 2008, allegedly masterminded by certain Hindu fundamentalist groups.