Court Gives Death Penalty To Mumbai Siege Gunman

A court in India on Thursday handed a death sentence to the only surviving Pakistani gunman in the bloody 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Judge M.L. Tahaliyani's sentence came three days after Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was found guilty of murder and waging war against India for his role in the attacks that claimed 166 lives in the nation's financial capital.

A death sentence must be reviewed by the High Court. Kasab can also appeal the decision and apply for clemency to the state and central governments.

India blames a Pakistan-based militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, for masterminding the attack.

The judge rejected arguments by Kasab's attorney, K.P. Pawar, that he had committed the crime under duress and pressure from Lashkar.

The judge said Kasab joined the militant group on his own and trained to be a fighter.

"Such a person can't be given an opportunity to reform himself," the judge said.

Death sentences in India are carried out by hanging.

The special prosecutor in the trial, Ujjwal Nikam, said in an interview Wednesday that he expected it would take at least a year for Kasab to be executed.

Though India voted against a moratorium on capital punishment at the United Nations in 2007 and 2008, in practice, the country has been veering away from applying the death penalty.

Only one person has been executed since 1998 — a man convicted of raping and murdering a 14-year-old girl, who was sent to the gallows in August 2004.

Many convicts simply wait, as bureaucratic disregard — which some say is purposeful neglect by politicians leery of capital punishment — effectively transmutes a death sentence into life in prison. People responsible for the 1991 assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and a 2001 attack on India's Parliament have yet to be executed.

Officials from the Home Ministry said Wednesday that they didn't have information available on the number of Indians currently awaiting execution.


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