Alleged Islamist militant Ajmal Kasab, on trial in India for last year's Mumbai attacks, has instructed his lawyer to retract his confession, claiming it was extracted by torture. "He's going to plead not guilty," his lawyer said.
AFP - The suspected Pakistani gunman on trial in India for last year's Mumbai attacks wants to retract his confession, claiming it was extracted by torture, his defence lawyer told reporters Friday.
The allegation came as the prosecution opened its case against Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, calling the November 2008 carnage in the city a product of Pakistan's "strategic terror culture."
But lawyer Abbas Kazmi said Kasab would fight a string of charges, including "waging war" on India, murdering 166 people, attempted murder and kidnapping. He faces the death penalty if convicted.
"On his instruction, a retraction application has been filed, retracting the so-called alleged confession," said Kazmi. "He's going to plead not guilty."
The lawyer told reporters that Kasab claimed that the confession, made to a local magistrate while he was in police custody, was "extracted out of coercion and force and it was not a voluntary confession."
He quoted Kasab as claiming he had been "physically tortured."
Friday's hearings also saw Kasab, identified by Indian authorities as a 21-year-old, claim to be under the age of 18 and to apply to have his case transferred to a juvenile court.
"He is still under 18. In such circumstances he is deemed to be a juvenile and this court has no jurisdiction to try this case," Kazmi told the trial court.
But public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam challenged the submission, saying that in both Kasab's "confession statement" to the police and on transfer to jail, he had said he was 21.
Judge M. L. Tahiliyani asked Kasab to stand in the dock and then commented: "As one looks at accused No. 1, it does not appear that he is below 17 years."
Rejecting the application, the judge added: "In my considered opinion, the plea is frivolous and intended to delay the trial."
In his opening arguments, Nikam said Kasab was part of a "meticulously planned and ruthlessly executed" plot hatched across the border.
"All the accused persons, including the wanted and deceased persons, are the products of a strategic terror culture," Nikam told the court.
"This terrorist culture has penetrated deep into Pakistan by terrorist organisations like Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT). It is institutionalised there. It has taken a firm root... Pakistan has indeed become a hotbed of terrorism," he said.
Nikam said there was "sufficient evidence on the record to conclude that this criminal conspiracy was hatched in Pakistan" by the LeT and unnamed "supporting agencies" -- a veiled reference to Pakistan's spy service.
"This is a multi-headed dragon capable of asserting itself in various forms," he added.
The Mumbai attacks saw 10 gunmen, of whom Kasab is alleged to be the sole survivor, land in the city by boat and murder more than 160 people.
A railway station, a café, two luxury hotels and a Jewish centre were targeted in the 60-hour attacks and hundreds were injured.
Date created : 2009-04-17