India executed convicted bomb plotter Yakub Memon on Thursday (July 30) for conspiring in the nation’s deadliest attack, a series of blasts that killed hundreds in Mumbai more than two decades ago.
Memon was hanged at Nagpur jail in the western state of Maharashtra on his 53rd birthday after India’s president and the supreme court both rejected 11th-hour appeals for clemency.
“It is complete. Yakub Memon was hanged today at 7am (0130 GMT),” Nagpur police sub-inspector RV Halami told reporters.
Memon, a former accountant, was convicted of plotting a series of co-ordinated bomb attacks that rocked India’s financial capital Mumbai in March 1993, killing 257 people and injuring around 700 more.
The Bombay Stock Exchange, the offices of Air India and a luxury hotel were among about a dozen targets of the blasts.
They were believed to have been staged by Mumbai’s Muslim-dominated underworld in retaliation for anti-Muslim violence that had killed more than 1,000 people a few months earlier.
Security was tight near the targets and at sensitive areas across Mumbai on Thursday, with heavily armed police visible outside Memon’s former home.
Memon and two of his brothers were convicted in 2006 by a specially-designated court using controversial anti-terror legislation that was introduced after the 1993 attacks and is no longer on the statute books.
The Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act lapsed after two years and was never revived, with activists accusing the government of using it to harass Muslims.
Memon was the only one of 11 people found guilty over the atrocity to have his death sentence upheld on appeal. The others had their sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
He denied any involvement in the blasts during a staggered trial and appeal process that bitterly divided opinion in India and led to calls from rights activists and an ex-judge for his life to be spared.
Former supreme court judge Harjit Singh Bedi had also said reports that Memon co-operated with investigators and returned voluntarily from Pakistan, where he fled, should have been taken into account when hearing his appeal.
Others pointed out that one of his brothers, Tiger Memon, was alleged to have masterminded the attacks, along with Mumbai gang boss Dawood Ibrahim. Both have been on the run since 1993.
Lawyers for Memon made a last-ditch mercy petition to supreme court chief justice HL Dattu after Indian president Pranab Mukherjee rejected a clemency plea late on Wednesday.
But the court dismissed it in a pre-dawn hearing, paving the way for Memon’s execution shortly afterwards.
Kirti Ajmera, who was severely injured in the bombing at the stock exchange, welcomed the hanging.
“I’m happy that justice has been done, although it has been delayed by 22 years. But ultimately I will not be satisfied until Tiger and Dawood are punished too,” the 58-year-old said.
Amnesty India described the execution as “cruel and inhuman”.
“It is a misguided attempt to prevent terrorism, and a disappointing use of the criminal justice system as a tool for retribution,” executive director Aakar Patel said in a statement.
Eight members of the Memon family were charged over the attacks and all denied any role in the atrocity.
They left for Dubai in the days before the 1993 bombings, but all except Tiger were arrested when they returned to India the following year.
Memon’s father died during the long-running legal proceedings, three were acquitted and three others are serving life in prison, including Yakub’s sister-in-law, Rubina Memon.
The attack also embroiled Bollywood star Sanjay Dutt, who is serving a prison sentence for buying weapons from gangsters accused of orchestrating the bombings.
Executions in India are only carried out in the rarest of circumstances, but president Mukherjee has rejected a number of mercy pleas in the past three years, ending an eight-year de facto moratorium.
The lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks was hanged in 2012, while a Kashmiri separatist was executed in New Delhi the following year after being convicted of involvement in a deadly 2001 attack on the Indian parliament.