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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 September, 2004, 12:11 GMT 13:11 UK
Murder charges in Gujarat trial
Best Bakery after attack (Photo Sabrang Communications)
The Muslims were burnt alive inside the bakery
Sixteen Hindus have been charged in a court in the Indian city of Bombay (Mumbai) with the murder of 12 Muslims during the Gujarat riots in 2002.

The accused have pleaded not guilty and the trial will begin on 4 October.

The victims were burned to death in a bakery in Baroda town during riots which claimed more than 1,000 lives.

India's Supreme Court ordered a retrial after a Gujarat court acquitted the 16 and five others when key witnesses withdrew their evidence.

The five others accused in the case have still not been arrested.

"Efforts are on to arrest the five absconders. We may be able to do it soon," a police officer told the Reuters agency.

Court anger

BBC News Online's Sanjoy Majumder in Delhi says this retrial is the first major step towards bringing to justice those behind some of India's worst religious violence in decades.

Known as the Best Bakery case after the bakery in Baroda where the Muslims died, it has often been cited by human rights groups as evidence that victims of the Gujarat riots had gained little justice.

The Supreme Court ordered that the retrial be moved out of Gujarat after accusing the state government of judicial failures.

The 2002 riots were sparked off after a suspected Muslim mob attacked a train, killing nearly 60 Hindu passengers.

Human rights groups pushed for a retrial of the Best Bakery case after a key witness admitted lying in court and not testifying against the accused.

She said she had been threatened by senior figures in the local organisation of Gujarat's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Several other prosecution witnesses also withdrew their evidence, leading to the acquittal of the 21 Hindus.


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