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Indian court convicts Pakistani for Mumbai siege

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[May 03, 2010]  MUMBAI, India (AP) -- An Indian court on Monday convicted a Pakistani man on charges of murder and waging war for his role in the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks that left 166 people dead in the heart of India's financial capital. Two Indians accused of helping plot the attacks were acquitted.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone survivor of the attack's 10 gunmen, was convicted in one of the siege's bloodiest episodes, when he and an accomplice killed and wounded dozens of people at one of Mumbai's busiest train stations. Photos of Kasab striding through the station, an assault rifle in his hand, became iconic images of the attacks.

Kasab sat impassively with his head bowed as the verdicts were read. Sentencing has been set for Tuesday. Kasab was convicted on all 86 charges against him, including murder and waging war against India. He faces a possible death sentence.

India blames a Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, for masterminding the attack. In his verdict, Judge M.L. Tahiliyani said Kasab was a member of the group and that Kasab's handlers were in Pakistan.

The judge said the gunmen in three-day siege came ready for sustained urban combat, bringing with them everything from machine-guns to a GPS device.

"These types of preparations are not normally made by ordinary criminals. These are made in an organized type of war," he said.

Tahiliyani acquitted Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, two Indians who had been accused of helping plot the attacks, saying that the evidence against them "doesn't inspire confidence in my mind."

The evidence against Kasab included footage from closed circuit cameras in and around the train station and the testimony of more than 600 witnesses.

The trial was conducted in four languages in a special court in Mumbai's high security Arthur Road Jail, where Kasab has been held since his arrest. He was arrested on the first night of the siege.

On Monday, security at the prison and the surrounding areas was exceptionally tight, with armed police and paramilitary troops on alert.

Despite its complexity, the trial lasted only about a year -- unusual speed for India's notoriously slow judicial system.

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One of the memorable moments in the trial came in July, when Kasab made a surprise confession, admitting to committing the killings. He later retracted that statement, saying he had been tortured.

The judge said the confession was not made under duress and was largely corroborated by other evidence.

The attacks and subsequent investigation have added pressure to already tense relations between historic rivals, India and Pakistan.

Islamabad has asked India to hand over Kasab and co-defendant Fahim Ansari so they could be tried in Pakistan. India has not responded to the request.

Pakistan has arrested and charged seven people suspected of involvement in the attack, but top Lashkar leader Hafiz Muhammad Saeed is not among them, much to India's ire.

Pakistan has promised to expedite its planned trial of suspects -- a key demand of India. The two countries' leaders agreed last week that their foreign ministers would meet, a key step toward resuming a formal peace dialogue suspended after the Mumbai attacks.

[Associated Press; By ERIKA KINETZ]

Associated Press reporter Rajesh Shah in Mumbai contributed to this report.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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