Mumbai attacks suspect retracts confession

A Pakistani man accused of being one of the 10 militants who attacked Mumbai last year retracted his earlier confession on Friday and told an Indian court he had been framed.

“I was not present at VT,” said Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab, referring to Victoria Terminus, the former name of Mumbai’s main railway station where he is accused of opening fire on November 26 2008, killing 52 and injuring more than 100 people.

“I do not know what has happened. Witnesses have come and recognised me because my face looks similar to the terrorists,” he told the judge at the special prison court in Mumbai where he is on trial.

“That is why I was picked up. I have been framed,” he said in Hindi.

Kasab (22) faces a string of charges in connection with the attacks on a number of targets in India’s financial capital, including “waging war” on the country, murder and attempted murder.
He could be executed if found guilty.

A total of 166 people, including 25 foreigners, were killed in the attacks and more than 300 injured. Nine of the gunmen also died.

Kasab, from Faridkot in the Pakistani Punjab, initially pleaded not guilty when the trial started in April, but in July made a shock confession, admitting being one of the two gunmen who opened fire at the station.

He also detailed how the group was trained by the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, then asked for swift justice.

“Please go ahead and hang me,” he told the judge.

The admission was dismissed as only a partial confession.

Kasab was speaking after the conclusion of formal evidence this week. In Indian law, defendants have the chance to respond to the claims of witnesses before lawyers make closing speeches and the judge pronounces the verdict.

The defendant, barefoot and wearing a white traditional kurta tunic and trousers, appeared relaxed and confident in the witness box as he responded to the prosecution evidence, an Agence France-Presse reporter in court said.

The prosecution has presented security camera footage and press photographs that they say show Kasab and an accomplice, Abu Ismail, at the station with powerful AK-47 assault rifles.

DNA and fingerprint evidence matching Kasab has also been produced.

But he told the court: “If you see, all witness accounts are similar. They talk about a tall guy and a short guy. This shows that the police have told these people to identify me as a terrorist.

“I have learnt from the police that the short guy is dead. His name is Abu Ali.”

Abu Ali was one of the four gunmen killed during the 60-hour siege at the luxury Taj Mahal Palace and Tower hotel.

Kasab said he had been in Mumbai—home of the Bollywood film industry—20 days before November 26 “to see cinema” and was picked up by police on a beach in the northern suburbs.

He was later forced to give a false confession while witnesses were told to identify him as one of the Mumbai attackers, he said.

“I have never seen or used an AK-47 in my life. I saw it for the first time with the police,” he added.

Kasab on Friday also claimed that his initial recorded statement made soon after his arrest and apparently detailing his involvement was “wrong” and made under duress.

The Judge, ML Tahaliyani, stopped the defendant when he said “four foreigners” had visited him in custody and mentioned the name “Headley”—an American-Pakistani charged in the United States in connection with the attacks.

Tahaliyani said the trial related to his alleged involvement, not that of anyone else.

Medical reports read in court said Kasab—who is being held in solitary confinement—was mentally fit but had been suffering from mild fever for the last few days.

Speaking outside court, Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam dismissed Kasab’s claims as his latest “U-turn” and said it would not affect the trial, as there was “strong and clinching evidence” against him.—AFP

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