Indian court acquits Hindu nationalist leaders in mosque demolition case

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By Saurabh Sharma

LUCKNOW, India, September 30 (Reuters) – An Indian court on Wednesday acquitted Hindu nationalist leaders, including former Deputy Prime Minister Lal Krishna Advani, in a case concerning the demolition of a mosque at a disputed site there is 28 years old, citing the lack of evidence.

The demolition sparked riots across the country that killed more than 3,000 people in a decades-long conflict that fueled Hindu-Muslim tensions, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata party’s campaign for the Hindu renaissance helping to bring it to the power.

Delivering its verdict after a long legal battle, the court said there was not enough evidence to directly link any of the defendants to the violence, defense lawyer Manish Kumar Tripathi said.

“The court did not accept the evidence, it was not strong enough,” Tripathi told reporters at the courthouse.

Advani, then head of the BJP, was among 32 people charged with criminal conspiracy and inciting a mob to demolish the 16th-century Babri Mosque in the northern city of Ayodhya in 1992.

The mosque stood on a site revered by devout Hindus as the birthplace of the god-King Ram.

The court blamed the disbelievers mixed in with the mob, adding that leaders such as Advani and Murli Manohar Joshi, another former cabinet minister, had tried to prevent the mob from turning violent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi last month laid the foundation stone for a Hindu temple to be built at the site, which was dispelled after the Supreme Court cleared the way last year, in a decision that also ordered the award of land further for a mosque.

The court had ignored all evidence in Wednesday’s case, said Zafaryab Jilani, an attorney with the All India Muslim Personal Law Board, adding that he planned to appeal the ruling to the High Court.

“We will look for a cure,” he added.

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