Indian court sentences 38 people to death over 2008 Ahmedabad bomb attack

People await a verdict outside the City Civil And Sessions Court in Ahmedabad, India, on February 18.

(CNN)An Indian court on Friday sentenced 38 Muslim men to death and ordered life in prison for 11 others for a series of bomb blasts in 2008 in the city of Ahmedabad that killed more than 50 people, lawyers said.

The 16 synchronized explosions had badly shaken the western state of Gujarat, where Hindu-Muslim riots in 2002 are believed to have killed thousands, mostly Muslims.
A group called the "Indian Mujahideen" had claimed responsibility for the blasts on July 26, 2008.
    Judge A.R. Patel ordered the punishment after the prosecution pressed for the death sentence, describing the incident as a "rarest of rare case" in which innocent lives were lost.
      Public prosecutors A.R. Patel (center left) and Sudhir Brahmbhatt (center right) speak to reporters outside the Sessions Court in Ahmedabad, India on February 18.
      A defense lawyer said they would appeal the verdict in a higher court.
        "We had sought lenient sentences for the convicts as they have already spent more than 13 years in prison," Khalid Shaikh told Reuters.
          "But the court awarded death to the majority of them. We will definitely go for appeal."
            The US State Department said in 2011 that the Indian Mujahideen had "significant links to Pakistan" and is responsible for "dozens of bomb attacks throughout India since 2005" that have caused the deaths of hundreds of civilians -- and played a "facilitative role" in the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left more than 160 people dead.