Trial into 2008 Mumbai terror attacks closes

Three men charged with murder and waging war against India could face death penalty if convicted

Published March 31, 2010 12:38PM (EDT)

The trial into the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks and the murder of 166 people during the three-day siege closed Wednesday -- less than a year after it opened, a speed rare in the Indian judicial system.

The special court that heard the case into the assault, which India blames on the Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, said it would issue a verdict on May 3.

On trial are Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani that Indian investigators allege is the only surviving gunman from the rampage in India's financial hub in November 2008. Also on trial are two Indian co-defendants accused of helping plot the attacks.

All three are charged with 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India. If convicted they could face the death penalty.

Indian courts are notorious for delays in dispensing justice, with trials often taking years to go to court and moving slowly through the system once there. But this case was made top priority because of the enormity of the assault.

"We have closed the trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab in the shortest possible time -- less than a year," said Ujjwal Nikam, the public prosecutor. The prosecution examined some 610 witnesses since the trial began in April.

Kasab, 21, was photographed carrying an assault rifle during the attack on Mumbai's main train station. He initially confessed, but later retracted it, saying he was tortured into admitting a role in the attacks.

In February, he told the judge that he wanted to attack India in order to free the divided region of Kashmir where Muslim militants are fighting for independence.

The assault in November 2008 lasted nearly three days and paralyzed India's commercial hub, Mumbai.

During the attacks, 10 young men armed with assault rifles stormed two luxury hotels, a Jewish center and the train station. Nine of the gunmen were killed.

By Rajesh Shah

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