Ajmal Kasab faces death penalty on judgment day

Ajmal Kasab faces death penalty on judgment day

Mumbai: The lone surviving terrorist from the 2008 Mumbai attacks that left 166 people dead could be given the death penalty on Thursday when the judge in the trial of the Pakistani gunman passes sentence.

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, 22, described by the prosecution as a “killing machine" and “cruelty incarnate", was found guilty at a special prison court in the city on Monday after a year-long trial.

Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam called for the death penalty because of the premeditated nature of the attacks, which saw 10 Pakistan-based terrorists attack hotels, a railway station, a restaurant and a Jewish centre during a 60-hour siege.

Kasab was the only gunman caught alive during the assault in November 2008 and the two most serious crimes he was convicted of — murder and waging war against India -- are punishable by hanging.

Judge M L Tahaliyani was due to pass sentence after reconvening the court late morning local time (about 11.00 a.m.).

Observers said that the death penalty, the expected outcome of the judge’s deliberations, is likely to trigger a lengthy, possibly open-ended, appeal through the Indian courts.

The government officially supports capital punishment for what the Supreme Court in New Delhi has called the “rarest of rare" cases but no execution has been carried out since 2004 and only two since 1998.

Many pleas for clemency to the President are still pending, including ones from the killers of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1991, and a Kashmiri separatist who attacked Parliament in 2001.

Families of some of the victims have long called for Kasab’s execution, and the clamour for him to be put to death grew louder after Monday’s widely expected guilty verdict.

The prosecution had a wealth of evidence against Kasab, including DNA and fingerprints, security camera footage, photographs and hundreds of witnesses.

An image of him carrying a powerful AK-47 assault rifle and backpack at Mumbai’s main railway station, where he and an accomplice killed 52 people, has become a defining image of the atrocity.

Defence lawyer K P Pawar has argued against capital punishment, suggesting that his client was brainwashed into committing the offences while under the influence of Pakistan-based extremists.

There is also a feeling in India that the alleged masterminds of the attacks in Pakistan must be convicted for true justice to be served.

The Indian government said the verdict on Kasab sent a strong message to Pakistan not to “export terror" beyond its borders.

New Delhi, which suspended peace talks with Islamabad after the attacks, now wants Pakistan to convict the alleged masterminds, namely the founder of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant group, Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, and key operative Zarar Shah.