The Indian government approved the release of 11 men convicted and sentenced to life in prison for gang-raping a Muslim woman and murdering members of her family during the 2002 Gujarat religious riots, according to court documents.
The approval letter from India’s Home Ministry, headed by Modi’s close aide Amit Shah, was uploaded on social media by legal site The Leaflet.
Bilkis Bano was five months pregnant when she was brutally gang-raped when Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief minister of Gujarat state.
According to an affidavit submitted by the Gujarat government in the Supreme Court, the state said its decision to release the convicts was based on them spending 14 years in jail and their good behaviour during their time in prison.
According to another document posted by The Leaflet, the state government had decided to release the prisoners despite objections from the Central Bureau of Investigation whose chief said that no leniency should be shown and that the crimes were “heinous, grave and serious.”
And NDTV news channel, quoting court documents, reported that the convicted men were granted stretches of parole and furloughs for more than 1,000 days before they were prematurely released in August.
The 11 men were jailed in 2008 for life in the gang rape and murder case. Fourteen members of Bano’s family were also killed in the violence, including her three-year-old daughter whose head was smashed on the ground by perpetrators in Limkheda, in Gujarat’s Dahod district.
The opposition Congress party’s leader Rahul Gandhi accused Prime Minister Modi of supporting rapists.
“Talk of respect for women from the ramparts of the Red Fort but in reality support for ‘rapists’,” Gandhi tweeted.
At the time of the release, Bano said the decision by the Gujarat government to free her rapists has left her “numb” and “bereft of words”, and had shaken her faith in justice.
“How can justice for a woman end like this? I trusted the highest courts in our land,” she said, adding that no authorities reached out to her before making the decision.
“Please undo this harm. Give me back my right to live without fear and in peace.”