Indian police yesterday were expected to charge the sole surviving gunman involved in last year’s devastating Mumbai attacks, which rocked the country’s financial capital and badly hit relations with Pakistan.
Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman — also known as Kasab — was the only member of the commando-type unit captured alive during the Nov. 26 to Nov. 29 siege.
A total of 165 people were killed and 308 injured when Iman and nine others, allegedly from the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba group, attacked a string of targets including luxury hotels, a railway station, a cafe and a Jewish center.
Nine of the attackers were killed, leaving Iman to face alone charges detailing a string of murders, terrorism, conspiracy, weapons and immigration violations.
If convicted Iman, 21, could face the hangman’s noose.
“We will file the charge sheet in a city court. It is a mammoth document,” said Rakesh Maria, Mumbai’s joint commissioner of police.
The Press Trust of India news agency quoted public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam as saying the charge sheet runs into “nearly 5,000 pages” and included evidence provided by the FBI, who helped probe the attacks.
Other evidence includes security camera footage of the gunman attacking a railway station, where scores of people died.
Besides Iman and nine other suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba militants, the charge sheet may name around 20 more accused believed to be hiding in Pakistan, an official said on condition of anonymity.
Indian law requires that a charge sheet be filed in court against a suspect within 90 days of detention.
Iman was arrested on Nov. 28.
Two other suspected members of the group are in custody in Mumbai, accused of providing support to the attackers.
The trial is expected to focus attention on how the gunmen were selected, trained and armed.
Pakistan admitted for the first time this month that the Mumbai strikes were partly planned on its soil and acknowledged that the surviving gunman is a Pakistani.
With the filing of formal charges, however, the Indian judicial system must now grapple with the question of Kasab’s defense in the light of a refusal by lawyers to represent him.
India’s Constitution provides for the right to legal representation and a “fair, just and equitable procedure” in court.
But the honorary secretary of the Bombay Bar Association, M.P. Rao, said in December that the unprecedented nature of the attacks meant normal rules should not apply.
“He has waged war on the country. If he’s waged war, the basic requirement of giving him a fair trial doesn’t really become justified,” he said.