Accessibility links

Breaking News

Mumbai Attack Trial Begins, Gunman Says From Pakistan

Indian police have kept the defendant, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, under tight security since his capture in the wake of the November attacks.
MUMBAI (Reuters) -- Sometimes breaking into laughter, the man accused of being the lone surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai attacks has told an Indian court that he was from Pakistan and wanted legal assistance, officials said.

In February, police formally charged Mohammed Ajmal Kasab with "waging war" against India, and his trial began on March 23 via a video link with his prison in Mumbai, where armed gunmen killed 166 people in a three-day rampage in November.

A bearded Kasab smiled and looked composed when the judge asked him whether he had received a copy of the charge sheet and wanted a lawyer, a government lawyer said

"I don't have a lawyer," special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam quoted him as saying to the judge.

"He was smiling throughout and said that he was from Pakistan," Nikam said. "He started laughing when the judge asked him if he understood everything in the charge sheet."

The attacks on India's financial hub sparked renewed tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. New Delhi says state agencies in Pakistan were involved in the attacks, while Islamabad denies this and has asked for more evidence.

Police say Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who arrived in Mumbai by sea and rampaged through landmarks of the financial hub, including five star hotels and the main train station.

Police say Kasab, who faces a maximum sentence of death by hanging, was injured in a shootout. Pictures of the young man, wearing sneakers and carrying an automatic rifle and backpack, were published around the world.

Kasab has since languished in jail, with Indian lawyers refusing to defend him.

Authorities are building a special bomb-proof concrete cage inside a Mumbai jail, where Kasab will appear personally during subsequent hearings. Security fears are behind the decision not to have him appear in court in the normal fashion.

Police and jail authorities have said Kasab, who was wearing a black T-shirt and blue jeans, has been cooperating with them.

"He has confessed that he is from Pakistan and has also asked the court for legal assistance," Rakesh Maria, the chief Indian investigator in the case, told Reuters by telephone.

Two Indians -- Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin -- who are accused of being members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group and of scouting Mumbai landmarks before the attacks, also appeared in court by video conference.

"They have both requested for lawyers and the court will take a decision," Nikam added.

India has charged 38 people, including Kasab and the two Indians, in connection with the case. Most of the accused reside in Pakistan, the Indian government says.

The charge sheet, which runs to some 11,000 pages, contains accounts of more than 2,200 witnesses as well as other evidence provided by the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which helped Indian police with the probe.

Those charged as key planners of the attacks included Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the militant Islamist Lashkar-e-Taiba group India says was behind the attacks, and other senior Lashkar members Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah.