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Court convicts Pakistani gunman for 2008 Mumbai attacks

Video by Elena CASAS , Mariam PIRZADEH

Text by Leela JACINTO

Latest update : 2010-05-03

A court in Mumbai has found Mohammad Ajmal Kasab (pictured), the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, guilty of 86 charges, including murder and “waging war against India,” a charge punishable by death. Sentencing is expected Tuesday.

An Indian court Monday found the sole surviving gunman of the 2008 Mumbai attacks guilty of murder and of “waging war against India”, the most serious in a list of 86 charges.

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, a 22-year-old Pakistani national, was found guilty of all 86 charges including murder, kidnapping, possessing explosives and waging war on the state, a charge that carries the death penalty under Indian law.

Sentencing is expected on Tuesday.

The attacks, which began on the night of Nov. 26, 2008, left more than 166 people dead in the course of a 62-hour killing spree at some of the city’s landmark locations.

 

Footage of a smartly-dressed, heavily armed Kasab stalking a railway station during the attack gained worldwide notoriety. The CCTV footage was included in the testimonies, as was a photograph of Kasab at the station, along with mobile phone transcripts and witness accounts.

Two other Indian men - Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Ahmed - accused of helping the ten gunmen plan the attacks were acquitted of all charges.

Delivering the verdict in a high security courtroom packed with journalists on Monday, Judge M.L. Tahaliyani addressed Kasab as he delivered the verdict. "You have been found guilty of waging war against India, and killing people at CST [Mumbai’s main railway station], killing government officials and abetting the other nine terrorists," said Tahaliyani.

Dressed in a white shalwar, the traditional long shirt from his native Punjab, Kasab was impassive during the verdict, according to reporters in the courtroom.

Reporting from the Indian capital of New Delhi, FRANCE 24’s Natasha Butler said the verdict was, “Not much of a surprise at all,” given the extensive prosecution evidence against Kasab. “For the relatives of those who perished in the attack, the guilty verdict will come as a great relief,” said Butler. “But many relatives of the victims and survivors want the death penalty and they will be watching very closely tomorrow when that sentence is passed.”
 

A fast-track trial

The verdict came more than 16 months after the attack itself. The complex trial was simultaneously conducted in four languages and saw hundreds of witnesses take the stand at a special court set up in Mumbai’s high security Arthur Road Jail. The charge sheet itself ran into 11,000 pages.

But by the sclerotic standards of the heavily overburdened Indian justice system, the Mumbai attacks trial were speedy, said Shishir Joshi, a veteran city journalist and co-founder of the Mumbai-based Journalism Mentor, a media training facility.

“This is a massive trial that has been put on a fast-track. We’ve never seen anything like this in modern Indian history,” said Joshi, who compared it to the trial of the 1993 serial bombing attacks in Mumbai, which ran for more than a decade. More than 250 people were killed in that single-day attack and the Indian government maintains that the mastermind of the serial bombings was aided by Pakistani authorities, charges Islamabad has denied.

While Pakistan initially denied that Kasab was a Pakistani national, Islamabad later acknowledged that he hailed from the Pakistani province of Punjab and that the 2008 Mumbai attacks were partially planned in its territory.

Indian officials say the attacks were masterminded by Lashkar-e -Taiba, a Pakistan-based militant group. Pakistani authorities have arrested seven men, including Zaki ur Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged military commander of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The attacks increased tensions between the two nuclear-armed South Asian foes, with New Delhi suspending peace talks with Islamabad. In recent days, the two governments have made tentative moves to resume a dialogue.

Erratic behaviour in court

The trial of the alleged sole surviving gunman of what is commonly referred to as “26/11”, in a reference to the night the attacks began, has gripped the nation.

A high-school dropout from an impoverished rural family in the Punjab, Kasab’s behaviour in court has been erratic throughout the trial.

On July 20, 2009, Kasab made a shock announcement that he wished to confess to the attacks. He was granted time in court the next day. But his confession was inconsistent and selective, leading Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam to decide against admitting the confession.

Kasab later retracted his confession, saying he had been forced to confess by the police. He has also argued, at various stages, that he was framed and that the man in the CCTV footage and still photograph was his “double”.

In recent days, reporters present in the court say the once confident suspect now appears subdued.

The prosecution has asked for the death sentence and observers expect the maximum punishment to be meted out. Under Indian law, Kasab is entitled to an appeals process in a higher court.

Date created : 2010-05-03

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