Pakistani Kasab guilty of 26/11, Indians absolved (Roundup)

May 3rd, 2010 - 8:25 pm ICT by IANS  

P. Chidambaram Mumbai, May 3 (IANS) It was closure for India’s most wounding terror attack Monday with a special court pronouncing Pakistani national Ajmal Amir Kasab guilty on 86 counts for the 26/11 strike while acquitting the two Indian co-accused - Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed.
Winding up the yearlong trial into the Nov 26-28 terror siege of Mumbai that ended with 166 people being killed and 244 injured, Special Judge M.L. Tahalyani also found the involvement of 20 Pakistanis. Amongst them were Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Hafiz Saeed and Abu Hamza.

Kasab, 23, the lone Pakistani captured alive after the Mumbai carnage, was held guilty on 86 counts, including murder and waging war on the Indian state. He listened attentively with his head bowed while Tahalyani read out the 1,522-page verdict for almost three hours in a specially built courtroom in the high-security Arthur Road Jail.

His conviction was based on CCTV footage showing him striding across the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus with an AK-47 and a backpack. The prosecution had called 653 witnesses to testify against the LeT operative born to poverty in a village in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The judge ruled that Kasab was guilty of directly killing seven people and a total of 59 along with associate Abu Ismail, who was shot dead after running into a police picket at Girgaun Chowpatty early Nov 27 - shortly after the terror assault began in the heart of India’s financial capital on the night of Nov 26.

Kasab, facing a possible death sentence, sat through the hearing quietly, witnesses said, but broke down after the judge explained what the verdict meant.

The process of sentencing will begin Tuesday.

Indians Ansari, 36, and Ahmed, 25, were also in court and showed no emotion as they were absolved of involvement. The duo - Ahmed from Goregaon in Mumbai and Ahmed from Madhubani in Bihar — had been charged with conspiracy by preparing maps of the targeted locations and handing them to LeT operatives.

While Law Minister M Veerappa Moily in New Delhi extolled the trial as a “victory for the judiciary, a victory for the country”, his colleague, Home Minister P. Chidambaram said it underlined that India was a “country governed by rule of law”.

“The judgment is itself a message to Pakistan that they should not export terror to India…,” Chidambaram told reporters and added that the acquittal showed the “independence and integrity” of the Indian judicial process.

Special Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said the acquittal would be challenged in the higher courts. He maintained that Ansari and Sabauddin were “notorious terrorists” and active members of the LeT.

Maharashtra’s Home Minister R.R. Patil said the duo, had got the “benefit of doubt”. “However, after the final judgment is received, the government will take appropriate steps in the matter.”

The judge also accepted the 42-page confession Kasab had given after his arrest.

Kasab was charged on 86 counts, under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. Besides, he faced charges under the Explosives Act, the Arms Act, the Passport Act, the Prevention of Damage to Public Properties Act, the Customs Act, the Explosive Substances Act, the Bombay Police Act, the Foreigners Act and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act.

The 60-hour audacious attack that began on the night of Nov 26, 2008 and went on till the afternoon of Nov 29, 2009 was carried out by 10 Pakistani terrorists, including Kasab.

They targeted sites like the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the Taj Mahal Palace and Tower Hotel, Hotel Oberoi-Trident, the Cama Hospital and the Chabad House, a Jewish prayer centre, and the popular hangout Leopold Café.

Almost 18 months later, survivors and family members of those who were killed said judgment day had left them satisfied.

Most were rooting for death sentence. Deepak, son of assistant sub-inspector Balasaheb Bhonsale who was killed, said: “No pity should be taken on him. His death is the only way to pay tribute to those policemen who laid their lives fighting the terrorists.”

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