"We were victims of politics," 63-year-old Shailesh Bhatt, a convict in the 2002 Bilkis Bano gangrape and murder case told news agency PTI on Tuesday, 16 August.
Bhatt is one of the 11 convicts who were released under the Gujarat government's remission policy after completing more than 15 years in jail.
Speaking to reporters, Bhatt claimed that he was a local functionary of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) while his brother worked as a clerk at Panchmahals Dairy when they were arrested.
"Singor is a small village. All the convicts belong to this village. We were all victims of politics. We were arrested in 2004 and remained in jail for more than 18 years. It feels good to be home with my family members. My son was eight or nine years old then, now he is an adult and works with Panchmahal Dairy. I am happy for him."Shailesh Bhatt to reporters
Another convict, Radheshyam Shah, also claimed that he and all others convicted in the case were innocent. "We were framed up because of our belief in certain ideology," Shah told reporters on Tuesday.
What Happened in The Bilkis Bano Case?
Bilkis Bano was 21 years old and five-months pregnant when she was sexually assaulted in Randhikpur village near Ahmedabad in March 2002, in the aftermath of the Godhra train burning incident. Her three children were also killed during the riots.
The trial in Bano’s case initially began in Ahmedabad but was transferred to Mumbai in 2004, after apprehensions surfaced over witnesses being harmed.
On January 21 2008, a special court convicted and sentenced 11 men to life imprisonment in the incident. Seven people, including the policemen and two doctors, accused of tampering with evidence, were acquitted.
On Tuesday, 16 August, 10 of them walked out of the jail under the Gujarat government's remission policy, while one died during the trial.
(With inputs from PTI)