A group of high-profile Indian politicians have been acquitted on charges of inciting violence that led to the demolition of a famous Muslim shrine in Ayodhya 28 years ago, followed by deadly sectarian riots.

The case revolved around the dramatic demolition of the 16th-century Babri Masjid mosque in Ayodhya in India’s northern Uttar Pradesh state in 1992. Hindu activists destroyed the building, believing that it was built on the ruins of a Ram temple. The incident sparked communal riots, which left 3,000 dead. But the trial began nearly 18 years after the incident and then proceeded at a snail’s pace.

A special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court in Lucknow on Wednesday acquitted all 32 defendants, ruling there was not enough evidence to prove that the demolition was a planned event.

“Antisocial elements brought down the structure. The accused leaders tried to stop these people,” Special Judge SK Yadav said.

In its ruling, the court rejected allegations that the defendants made incendiary speeches, inciting a Hindu mob that gathered outside the mosque. Yadav said that audio tapes of speeches by the defendants submitted by the CBI were “not clear.” (RT)