India upholds death sentence over 1993 Mumbai blasts

NEW DELHI (AFP) - India's top court upheld the death penalty on Thursday for a mastermind of a series of bombings that killed 257 people in Mumbai in 1993, the deadliest set of attacks in the country's history.

Yakub Memon, brother of the alleged main plotter and fugitive Tiger Memon, was the only one of 11 convicts to see his death sentence upheld by the Supreme Court for his role in the blasts, which wounded more than 800 people.

The judges also handed down a five-year term for the prominent Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt for possessing illegal weapons bought from gangsters accused of orchestrating the bombings.

Announcing the sentences, Supreme Court Judge P. Sathashivam said the Memon brothers and another fugitive suspect who is said to be living in Pakistan "were archers and the rest of the appellants were arrows in their hands".

"They were the architects of the blasts," Judge Sathashivam, one of two judges presiding over the case, said.

The remaining convicts who had appealed against the death penalty saw their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.

Executions are only carried out for "the rarest of rare" cases in India but President Pranab Mukherjee has rejected a number of mercy pleas in the last few months, ending an unofficial eight-year moratorium.

Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri separatist convicted of involvement in a deadly 2001 attack on the Indian Parliament, was executed in New Delhi last month, triggering angry protests in the disputed region.

The lone surviving gunman from the deadly 2008 Mumbai attacks, Pakistani-born Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was hanged last November, in the first execution in the country since 2004.

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