Indian gunman receives death penalty

Indian gunman receives death penalty
# 06 May 2010 18:13 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. A judge ruled that the crimes of Ajmal Kasab, the convicted Pakistani man who was one of 10 attackers, were so reprehensible that “the court has no option except going with the death penalty”, APA reports citing The New York Times.

Mr. Kasab, 22, who looked ill and spent most of the hearing with his head lowered and his right hand covering his face,cried a little but did not say anything after the sentence was read. When asked if he would like to say anything before the sentence was read, Mr. Kasab shook his head and flicked his hand downward.

The terrorists, who arrived in Mumbai by boat on Nov. 26, 2008, spent three days attacking a train station, two hotels, a Jewish center and a popular bar. Mr. Kasab and one accomplice were responsible for about 60 deaths, most of them at the city’s busiest train station, where pictures and video footage showed him shooting indiscriminately at passengers in a waiting area.

The judge, M.L. Tahaliyani, sentenced Mr. Kasab to death sentences for four crimes and about two dozen lesser sentences ranging from life imprisonment to a month in jail.

Mr. Kasab is unlikely to be put to death quickly. His punishment has to be ratified by the Mumbai High Court, and he may appeal further to the Supreme Court and seek mercy from India’s president.

Executions are rare in India. In the last 10 years, the country has put to death just one person — a convicted rapist and murderer was hanged in 2004 — according to Human Rights Watch. In 2007, the latest year for which statistics are available, 186 convicts were sentenced to death, but authorities also commuted to life imprisonment the sentences of 881 people on death row, according to India’s National Crime Records Bureau. Mr. Kasab was convicted on Monday, and Mr. Tahaliyani said then that the 2008 attack amounted to “a brazen act of war against India.”

“I don’t think words are necessary to illustrate the brutality” of the attack, the judge said Thursday. “The brutality could be witnessed from the faces of the witnesses in the court.”

Referring specifically to Mr. Kasab’s actions, the judge added: “He fired indiscriminately, without any consideration of the age or sex of the passengers. Children were killed. Women were killed.”

Rejecting the defense lawyer’s plea for leniency, Mr. Tahaliyani said it was unlikely that Mr. Kasab could be reformed or rehabilitated, given the dedication with which he had joined and served the Pakistan-based terrorist group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

For most of the nearly two-hour hearing on Thursday, Mr. Kasab did not look at the judge or anybody else in the courtroom. Dressed in a full-sleeved white tunic and pajamas, he did not address the court, though he appeared to ask his guards to let him out of the room. At one point the guards took him out to have a glass of water while the judge was reading his order but brought him back within a couple of minutes.

In July last year, Mr. Kasab tried to change his plea to guilty and asked the court to end the trial and hang him. The trial continued, however, and he tried to change his plea to not guilty in December, saying the Indian police had framed him.

The conviction of Mr. Kasab is part of a larger case that Indian authorities have been trying to build in response to the 2008 assault, an attack that claimed fewer lives than previous terrorist assaults on India but was widely seen here as more brazen and violent. India has been seeking the extradition from Pakistan of people suspected of planning the Mumbai attack, although Pakistan has said it needs more evidence from India.

Pakistan has put some suspects on trial, but courts there released Hafiz Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba who was placed under house arrest after the Mumbai massacre. The courts ruled there was not enough evidence to continue holding him.

The attacks heightened tensions in the already strained relations between the nuclear-armed neighbors, which have fought several wars since being divided at the end of British rule more than 60 years ago. Indian and Pakistani leaders recently resumed a dialogue that India broke off after the attacks.