NEW DELHI — Yakub Memon, the “driving spirit” behind a series of bombings in Mumbai that killed 257 people in 1993, was hanged early Thursday morning at a prison in central India.
The bombings, a carefully coordinated series of a dozen explosions across the city, stunned India because of their level of sophistication and their unprecedented carnage. In addition to the dead, more than 700 people were injured and several neighborhoods were left in smoking ruins.
According to prosecutors, Mr. Memon was the bomb plot’s indispensable middleman, the one who arranged financing, made travel plans, stockpiled weapons and bought vehicles for car bombs. Of all those who have been convicted of crimes related to the bombings, including the men who planted the bombs, Mr. Memon is the only defendant to be executed.
As is the norm in India, journalists were not allowed to witness the execution, which was carried out at the Central Prison in the city of Nagpur. Under prison procedures, the condemned is typically offered a bath, a final meal, fresh clothes and a chance to pray before going to the gallows. Although death sentences are routinely imposed in India, actual executions are rare. Mr. Memon was only the fourth person executed in India since 2000.
He was hanged before 7 a.m. on his 53rd birthday.
While there was no immediate official confirmation, Mr. Memon’s death was widely reported by Indian news outlets citing government sources.
The execution took place amid tightened security, especially in towns and cities with large Muslim populations. The security measures reflected official concern that the execution of Mr. Memon, a Muslim in a predominantly Hindu nation, could serve as a flash point for religious strife and score-settling — the same dynamic present in the Mumbai bombings.
Over the past week, as the execution approached, a robust debate erupted here over whether Mr. Memon deserved to die. That debate gathered strength on Wednesday as India’s president rejected his final plea for mercy. By late Wednesday night, several hundred people opposed to Mr. Memon’s execution had gathered for a candlelight vigil at Jantar Mantar, a giant sundial that is this city’s preferred rallying point for public protest. Not until 5 a.m. on Thursday did India’s Supreme Court deny Mr. Memon’s final appeal.
The debate was fueled by last-minute questions about Mr. Memon’s supposed cooperation with investigators, by concerns about the treatment of Muslim defendants in India’s courts and by the uncontested fact that the actual masterminds of the bombings remain at large.
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Source: The New York Times, David Barstow, July 30, 2015
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