CBI seeks death penalty for IC-814 hijack accused
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New Delhi, Oct 2 (PTI) The CBI has approached the Punjab and Haryana High Court with a plea to enhance the life sentence awarded to Abdul Latif, accused in the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 hijacking case, to death penalty terming his offence worse than the Parliament attack case.

The CBI approached the high court in Chandigarh recently after studying the verdict of designated anti-hijacking court judge Inderjit Singh Walia who had sentenced Latif and two others including a Nepalese national to life imprisonment.

The CBI contends that Latif's crime was no less than Afzal Guru, who has been sentenced to death in connection with the attack on Parliament on December 13, 2001.

The petition has been filed and it will come up for hearing, CBI sources said, adding that the offence of Latif was more serious in nature than that of Afzal in the attack.

Latif along with Dilip Kumar Bhujel (Indian) and Yusuf Nepali (Nepalese national) were sentenced to life by a court in Patiala in February this year, eight years after the hijack of an Indian Airlines aircraft that resulted in release of Jaish-e-Mohammed chief Masood Azhar and two other dreaded terrorists.

The three were convicted for criminal conspiracy to hijacking under the Anti-Hijacking Act and also for criminal conspiracy to murder, attempt to murder, kidnapping, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation.

The judge in its order had said, "It has been proved that the accused Indian nationals Latif and Bhujbal and Nepali of Nepal had provided logistics support to the five hijackers on board the IC-814 plane and are liable under Section 4 of the Anti-Hijacking Act of 1982."

The ill-fated IC-814 was hijacked on December 24, 1999 while flying over Varanasi airspace on its way to Delhi from Kathmandu and the three were accused of helping the hijackers by arranging their stay, passport, tickets, arms and ammunition.

During a week of suspense and horror for over 150 passengers and their families with threats of blowing up the aircraft, five hijackers -- Ibrahim Athar (brother of Masood Azhar), Sunny Ahmed Qazi, S A Sayed alias Doctor, Z I Mistri alias Bhola and R G Verma alias Shakir -- who commandeered aircraft to Kandahar, negotiated with Indian officials and got Azhar and two other Omar Sayeed and Mushtaq Zargar released from jails in India in exchange for passengers.

The BJP-led NDA government suffered the ignominy when External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh escorted the three terrorists in a special aircraft to Kandahar to secure the freedom of passengers.

CBI had charged 10 people out of which seven including the five hijackers were still absconding and are in Pakistan. An Interpol Red Corner notice has been issued against all seven.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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