India charges gunman over Mumbai attacks

Indian police on Wednesday charged a man, who they say is the lone surviving gunman in last year’s Mumbai attacks, with ”waging war” against India, drawing up the first formal charges in the case, a government lawyer said.

Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told reporters that the charge sheet named 37 other people, including Indians and Pakistanis, with planning and abetting the attacks that killed 179 people and revived tensions between India and Pakistan.

Nikam said Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the surviving gunman, was not in the court because of security concerns. The next hearing of the case is on March 9.

”The charge sheet has 35 wanted [accused] and three accused,” Nikam said, waving a copy of the voluminous charge sheet which had pictures of the attack on its covers. He said he would try to wind up the trial in three to six months.

The charge sheet, which runs into about 11 000 pages, contains accounts of more than 100 witnesses as well as other evidence provided by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which helped Indian police with the probe.

If found guilty, Kasab and those charged with waging war with India could face the gallows.

Police said on Tuesday that evidence included transcripts of phone calls between the attackers and their ”handlers” in Pakistan, video footage from attack sites, and what police say is Kasab’s confession.

The charges of ”waging war” with India mean there is almost no chance Kasab would be handed over to Pakistan for trial.

Kasab was captured during the attacks while nine other gunmen, who India says were Pakistani militants, were killed in a 60-hour rampage across two five-star hotels, a Jewish centre and a crowded train station in India’s financial hub.

India has said the Pakistani militants must have been supported by Pakistani security agencies.

Pakistan has acknowledged that the deadly raid had been launched and partly planned from Pakistan. It is conducting its own investigation and has detained several Islamist leaders, including some whom India has named as planners of the attack.

India has handed Pakistan data from satellite phones used by the attackers and Kasab’s confession.

India mounted a diplomatic offensive after the attacks, saying Pakistan was not doing enough to bring the perpetrators to justice or dismantle what it said were militant camps there. — Reuters

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