Indian court commutes death sentences of 11 men convicted over 2002 train fire that sparked anti-Muslim riots

AHMEDABAD, INDIA (AFP) - An Indian court on Monday (Oct 9) commuted the death sentences of 11 men convicted of causing a 2002 train fire that sparked anti-Muslim riots in which more than 1,000 people were killed.

The 11 men, all Muslims, will instead face life in jail for causing the fire that killed 59 Hindu passengers and set off some of the worst religious violence to hit independent India.

They were among 31 men convicted in 2011 who lodged an appeal at the High Court in the western state of Gujarat, where the violence occurred.

"The court has commuted the death sentences for 11 convicted to life imprisonment," public prosecutor Eknath Ahuja told AFP after the appeal hearing.

The court upheld life imprisonment for 20 others convicted in the case, he said.

Hindu mobs hungry for revenge over the fire rampaged through Muslim neighbourhoods in towns and villages across the state during a week of bloodshed in 2002.

Gujarat's Hindu nationalist government was accused of tacitly supporting the revenge attacks, which survivors said could have been avoided if police had arrived on time.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was the state's chief minister at the time, was accused of turning a blind eye to the violence.

He was cleared of any wrongdoing in 2012 by a Supreme Court-ordered investigation.