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Mumbai Attack Suspect Pleads Not Guilty

BY Admin  May 6, 2009 at 12:35 PM EST

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab; AP file photo

Prosecutors told the court that Mohammed Ajmal Kasab was one
of 10 attackers responsible for killing 166 people and wounding 234 more during
the three-day siege of India’s financial capital last November. Nine other
suspected gunmen were killed during the attacks.

Presiding Judge M.L. Tahiliyani read out all the charges
against Kasab in a Mumbai courtroom. Kasab responded with a plea of not guilty
and said, “I don’t accept these charges.”

He also told the court: “It’s all wrong. I’m not
guilty.”

Kasab faces the death penalty if convicted.

Police say he was one of 10 gunmen who landed in Mumbai by
boat from Pakistan and rampaged through several of the city’s landmarks
including the main train station, two luxury hotels and a Jewish center.

Tahilyani explained the charges to Kasab in Hindi and asked
him if he understood, the public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said, according to
Reuters.

Kasab also told the court that he was 21 years old,
prompting laughter in the courtroom because of the defense’s recent attempts to
prove that he was a minor, which would have meant lighter penalties if convicted
in juvenile court.

The judge had earlier ordered medical and dental tests to
confirm his age.

Kasab also said that he was a laborer from the town of
Faridkot in Pakistan’s Punjab province.

The BBC reported that Kasab was dressed in a striped shirt
and appeared relaxed, at times smiling.

The prosecution will now begin to present evidence and
witnesses in each of the cases against the accused, Nikam said. The prosecution
has said it has more than 1,800 witnesses and more than 750 pieces of evidence.

In an earlier hearing, Kasab retracted a confession, saying
it was coerced. It will be up to the judge to weigh the evidence at the trial
and decide whether the confession should be taken into account.

Charges were also laid on Wednesday against Fahim Ansari and
Sabahuddin Ahmed, two Indians accused of being members of the Pakistan-based
Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba and of conducting reconnaissance of the
Mumbai landmarks before the attack. They also pleaded not guilty to a string of
charges that included murder and waging war against India. They also face the
death penalty.

India has charged 38 people in all in connection with the
attack. Most of them live in Pakistan, the government has said.

Prosecutors say the attacks were masterminded by
Lashkar-e-Taiba, and say investigations are ongoing to determine the scope of
Pakistani involvement in the attack.

The attacks raised tensions between India and Pakistan,
nuclear-armed rivals who have fought three wars against each other since
gaining independence in 1947.