Visnagar(Guj): A local court here on Friday acquitted 109 persons who were accused of killing two people in Umta village of this taluka in Mahasana district during the post Godhra riots of 2002.

Additional Sessions Judge K B Meghanani released all the accused giving them benefit of doubt in the case. The court said that the prosecution was not able to clearly establish the role of the accused.

On February 28, 2002, a violent mob of over 1,500 people had burnt down many homes and business establishment of minority community members at Umta.

During the rioting, one retired teacher Mohammad Sheikh and Abdul Mansuri were taken away by the crowd, beaten up and killed. However, their mortal remains were not recovered by the investigating agencies. Chargesheet in the case was filed against 120 persons, however, 11 people died during the course of trial.

74 witnesses were examined, and except for the relatives of those killed and the police, most of the other witnesses turned hostile, public prosecutor in the case N J Barot said.

The case was investigated by local police and relatives of the victims were not satisfied with the investigations. While releasing them, the court, however, told all of them to give a bond of Rs 10,000 each for their bail and also asked them to deposit their passports with officials.

Stating that the judgement would be challenged in the higher court, Iqubal Sheikh, a lawyer of the victim said during the course of trial they had demanded re-investigation in the case, which was granted by the court.

"However, even during re-investigations, mortal remains of the two killed in the incident were not found and the victims felt it was an eye wash," Sheikh said.

According to him, three witness including Inayat Sheikh, the son of retired teacher who was killed, had identified the accused in the court. "The court has not given a clear acquittal to them but they have been given benefit of doubt and has also told the accused not to go out of Gujarat without its permission," Sheikh said, adding "We will definitely challenge this verdict in the higher court".

Public prosecutor Barot said that he will study the judgement and then decide on making recommendations to the state government for challenging it in higher courts.

(Agencies)