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India hangs only man sentenced in ’93 Mumbai blasts

Social activists condemn the hanging of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon in New Delhi, India, on Thursday. Memon was hanged after the president rejected a last-minute mercy plea amid a debate over the capital punishment. (Associated Press)
Social activists condemn the hanging of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon in New Delhi, India, on Thursday. Memon was hanged after the president rejected a last-minute mercy plea amid a debate over the capital punishment. (Associated Press)
Muneeza Naqvi Associated Press

NEW DELHI – Ignoring pleas and petitions by civil society groups, India on Thursday hanged an accountant convicted of supporting the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people in the country’s worst terrorist attack.

The police barred media from publishing images of Yakub Abdul Razak Memon’s funeral, apparently fearing a backlash against the execution that many said was driven by politics.

Executions are rare in India, and in the last decade only two others have taken place, both of terror convicts like Memon.

The earlier two executions were conducted in extreme secrecy and announced only after the fact. Their bodies were not handed to their families but were buried inside prison compounds. Memon’s body was handed to his family.

Memon was executed on his 53rd birthday at the prison in western India where he had been incarcerated since 1994. His family took his body to Mumbai from Nagpur hours later, and thousands of people gathered outside the cemetery for the funeral. Security was tight, and hundreds of paramilitary and police were posted nearby.

His lawyers had mounted a last-ditch effort to save him, including arguments at the Supreme Court just two hours before the sentence was carried out.

Prominent citizens, including retired Supreme Court judges, had urged President Pranab Mukerjee to commute Memon’s sentence to life in prison. That appeal reflected both opposition to the death penalty as well as fresh claims by his lawyers that he freely surrendered to Indian authorities in Kathmandu, Nepal, and that his direct links to the bombings had not been sufficiently established.

Indian investigators, along with the main public prosecutor in the case, Ujjwal Nikam, say he was arrested in New Delhi.

Memon was convicted in 2007 of helping raise funds for the blasts that struck the Bombay Stock Exchange, Air India offices, a state transport office, three hotels, a gas station and a movie theater over two hours on March 12, 1993. The attacks were seen as revenge for the demolition of a medieval mosque in northern India by Hindu nationalists.

The demolition sparked religious riots in many parts of the country, leaving more than 800 people dead, most of them Muslims.

Yakub’s older brother Ibrahim – also known as “Tiger” Memon – and Dawood Ibrahim, both leading gangsters in Mumbai in the 1990s, are the main suspects in the bombings and have fled the country.

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have decried the hanging.

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