Mumbai: A local court on Friday acquitted 19 persons, accused to have helped get fake passports for the hijackers of the Indian Airlines flight IC-814 in December 1999. In December 1999, Mumbai police's crime branch arrested Abdul Latif, an alleged terrorist, from suburban Jogeshwari and claimed to have recovered an AK-56 rifles, hand grenades and rocket launchers from him.
According to police, he confessed to committing a bank robbery for financing the IC-814 hijacking and also for procuring fake passports. Police also arrested another 22 persons in this connection. While two died during the trial, one was discharged from the case.
During the trial, prosecution examined 28 witnesses, however, seven turned hostile. Defence lawyer Abdul Wahab Khan had argued that Latif had already faced a trial in the fake passport case in Patiala court of Delhi, which tried the main hijack case, so he could not be tried for the same offence again, as it would be "double jeopardy".
The Mumbai crime branch officials who arrested Latif had deposed as the witnesses at the Patiala court trial, he said. The hand-writing expert on whom prosecution had relied had no good credentials as he had been facing a bribery case. In January last year, the court had acquitted three persons including Latif in the case related to the bank robbery, the booty whereof had been allegedly used to finance the hijacking.