Mohammed Ajmal Mir Kasab, the lone surviving gunman in the November 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people and left hundreds more injured, was issued the death penalty Thursday. A special court judge sentenced Kasab to death on charges of murder, conspiracy, and waging war against the Indian state.
"The death penalty must be imposed," said Judge M. L. Tahiliyani. "Kasab has lost his right to get a humanitarian judgment."
Earlier in the trial that lasted about a year, Kasab had confessed to the charges but later retracted his statement, saying that he had been framed and the confession had been obtained under torture. After pleading not guilty, Kasab reportedly told the court: "Yeh sab kuch galat hai. Hamein kabul nahin hai" (All this is false. The charges are not acceptable to me).
The Pakistan-based terror group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) is believed to be behind the Mumbai attacks. The attacks were orchestrated by Lashkar handlers—watching the scene live on television from several thousand miles away in Pakistan. Defense lawyers argued that Kasab acted under pressure from Lashkar.
Kasab's now famous picture shot firing indiscriminately at passersby, including women and children, at the Chattrapati Shivaji Terminus, Mumbai's main railway terminal, that was caught on camera by photographer Sebastian d'Souza, provided key evidence against him. D'Souza recalls that when the picture was presented at the trial, Kasab told the judge "'I want to go back to the cell.' He started to cry."
Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam was ecstatic about the trial's outcome, saying "I'm very happy with the judgment. I have been successful in my attempt to put a balm on the wounds of the victims." In a reference to Pakistan-based terrorists seeking to wage jihad against India, External Affairs Minister S. M. Krishna said that the verdict will "send a message to those who want to wage war with India."
The execution is not likely to take place anytime soon. The death sentence first has to be approved by the Mumbai High Court, which can take a long time. Kasab also has the option to file an appeal with the Supreme Court or seek a presidential waiver.