Kasab to face verdict in 26/11 case tomorrow


- dEsPeraTe cRaNky -

Seventeen months after terror merchants from Pakistan unleashed death and destruction on the country's financial capital, a court here will pronounce its verdict tomorrow on the fate of lone surviving 26/11 gunman Ajmal Kasab and two alleged Indian conspirators.

Kasab, a native of Faridkot, along with nine slain terrorists, has been charged with killing 166 people, including 25 foreigners, and injuring 304 others at the instance of Lashkar-e-Taiba.

The Indian duo -- Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed -- are accused of conspiracy in the brazen attacks. They are alleged to have prepared the maps of terror targets and passed them on to the LeT for execution of their diabolic plan.

If held guilty, they may face death penalty. Ten terrorists, trained and armed by the outlawed LeT in Pakistan, had descended on India's financial nerve centre on a 'Fidayeen' (suicide) mission and wreaked havoc during the 60-hour siege, killing and wounding people at will.

The trial, perhaps the fastest in a terror case in India, had commenced on May 8 in a special court set up at Arthur Road Jail which recorded 3,192 pages of evidence after examining 658 witnesses on 271 working days.

Thirty witnesses in the court of judge M L Tahaliyani identified Kasab as the man who had opened fire at them.

The prosecution, led by Ujjwal Nikam, had submitted 1,015 articles seized during investigations and filed 1,691 documents to support its case. The prosecution had also argued that Pakistan's security apparatus was used by LeT in the November 26, 2008 attacks.

For the first time in the Indian legal history, FBI officials deposed to give technical evidence that the killers came from Pakistan using Global Positioning System and that they made calls from their mobile phones through Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) to stay in touch with their handlers across the border.

Prosecution also tabled CCTV footages of the terrorists moving about with guns and firing at people. The images were captured on CCTV cameras fitted at CST railway station, Times of India building, and Taj Mahal and Oberoi hotels.

Photographs of Kasab shot by photojournalists Sebastian D'souza and Sriram Vernekar were also placed before the court. However, Kasab took the plea that these were morphed and that he was not the one shown in the stills.

Kasab is lodged in a specially made bullet and bomb-proof cell in the high-security Arthur Road central prison. He was brought every day to the court in the jail premises escorted by 10 to 12 guards. Since the trial began, 200 troops of Indo-Tibetan Border Police guarded him round-the-clock.

Kasab was captured alive on the first day of the attacks, and he confessed to his crime before a Magistrate in February last year spilling the beans about the conspiracy hatched in Pakistan and how they struck terror at various places in Mumbai, only to retract it as soon as the trial commenced.

Midway through the trial, Kasab took a U-turn, admitting partly his earlier confession, but diluting his role in the attacks and passing almost the entire blame on his accomplice Abu Ismael. Finally, at the end of the trial, he disowned all earlier versions and claimed innocence.

Seeking to obstruct the trial in the initial stages, Kasab claimed he was juvenile but the court rejected his plea after scientific evidence proved otherwise. The 11,000-page chargesheet filed on February 25, 2008 put his age at 21.

Kasab was represented by three lawyers. The first, Anjali Waghmare was removed on technical grounds even before the trial began as the court learnt that she had also appeared for a witness in the same case. Abbas Kazmi, who replaced her, was removed mid-way for not cooperating with the court.

K P Pawar, who then defended Kasab, continued till the end and pleaded that his client was innocent and was picked up by the police from Chowpatty a few days before the strikes.

According to prosecution, Kasab and his accomplices were given commando and intelligence training at a camp in Muridke in Pakistan by LeT chief Hafeez Sayeed and chief of operations Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi.

The chargesheet alleged that the attackers sailed from Karachi in 'Al-Hussaini' boat, which they abandoned near Porbunder where they hijacked Indian fishing trawler 'Kuber' to reach Mumbai.

On board Kuber, they murdered navigator Amarsinh Solanki and four sailors. Solanki's body was found in his cabin while those of others were dumped into the sea.