Indian court drops charges against ruling party leader of ordering extra-judicial killings



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NEW DELHI — A special Indian court on Tuesday dropped criminal charges against Amit Shah, the president of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, who was accused of ordering three extra-judicial killings by police nearly a decade ago.

The court in India's Central Bureau of Investigation said there was little evidence to prove that Shah, a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, directed police to abduct and kill a small-time criminal and his wife in Gujarat state in 2005 and a witness to their abduction.

Jubilant party supporters showered Shah with flower petals and set off firecrackers outside the party's offices in New Delhi.

Shah served as junior home minister of Gujarat when Modi was the state's chief minister. He resigned and spent three months in jail in 2010. Shah, who denied the accusations, was then released on bail.

A sharp political strategist, Shah is widely credited for his party's spectacular electoral victory in national elections in May.

He was appointed to the top post in the Hindu nationalist ruling party in July despite the continuing investigation into the deaths. Since then he has guided the party to a series of wins in state elections across the country.

The Central Bureau of Investigation, the country's top investigative agency, had accused Shah of running an extortion racket with police. It said the dead criminal was involved in the racket but had a falling out with Shah, who allegedly ordered police to kidnap him and wife in 2005. It said the two were later killed in a staged gunbattle, as was the witness to their abductions.

The bureau said it had records of telephone calls between Shah and police officers involved in the shootings. The officers remain on trial.

It was not immediately clear whether the bureau will appeal the court ruling.

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