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'Mumbai gunman' retracts confession
« on: December 18, 2009, 11:13:41 am »
Friday, December 18, 2009 19:06 Mecca time, 16:06 GMT

'Mumbai gunman' retracts confession

A man accused of taking part in a deadly siege in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 has retracted his confession, claiming that police tortured him into admitting his role in the attacks.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 22, told the judge in a special court on Friday that he came to Mumbai as a tourist and was arrested 20 days before the siege began.

"I was not present at VT [Victoria Terminus, the former name of Mumbai's main railway station]. I do not know what has happened," Kasab said.

"Witnesses have come and recognised me because my face looks similar to the terrorists ... that is why I was picked up. I have been framed", he said.

The Pakistani national denies being the man photographed with an assault rifle in pictures taken at Mumbai's main train station, one of several sites targeted by the gunmen.

Kasab faces a string of charges in connection with the attacks by 10 heavily armed gunmen on multiple targets in India's financial capital, including "waging war" on the country, murder and attempted murder.

A verdict is expected early next year. Kasab could be executed if found guilty.

At least 166 people died in the attacks, in which 10 men armed with rifles stormed two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and the train station. Nine of the gunmen were killed.

'Clinching evidence'

Speaking outside court, prosecution lawyer Ujjwal Nikam dismissed Kasab's claims as his latest "U-turn" and said it would not affect the trial because there was "strong and clinching evidence" against him.

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 Kasab 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 initially travelled by train to Mumbai - home of the Bollywood film industry -"to see cinema" and was picked up by police on a beach in the northern suburbs 20 days before the attacks.

The 22-year old said he was initially brought into police custody after wandering around the city late at night, looking for a place to stay. His Pakistani citizenship aroused suspicion, he said.

Kasab also claims that police took him from his cell on the day the attacks started because he resembled one of the gunmen, and then shot him to make it look as if he had been involved in the attacks and re-arrested him.

11:23 GMT, Friday, 18 December 2009

Mumbai accused says he was framed

The man alleged to be the sole surviving gunman in last year's Mumbai attacks, Mohammad Qasab, has retracted a confession that he took part.

Giving evidence in his defence, Mr Qasab, a Pakistani national, said he had been forced by police to confess after being repeatedly beaten up.

He said he was not the man seen in pictures wielding an assault rifle during the attacks.

Mr Qasab faces 86 charges, including waging war on India and murder.

The November 2008 attacks left 174 people dead, including nine gunmen, and strained ties between India and Pakistan.

The BBC's Prachi Pinglay said Mr Qasab looked calm in court as he repeatedly denied having anything to do with the attacks, insisting he had been framed by the police.

A special court in Mumbai (Bombay) is prosecuting him and a verdict in the case is expected early next year.

'Completely wrong'

Giving evidence in court, Mr Qasab said that all previous confessions he had given in relation to the attacks were false and made under duress. He said that an identity parade in which he took part had been "manipulated" by police.

He said that he had never been to any of the locations where the attacks took place and prior to his appearance in court had never even seen an AK-47 assault rifle.

He said that numerous eyewitness accounts of his role in the attacks were "completely wrong".

Mr Qasab said that Mumbai police had arrested him 20 days before the attacks on a beach in the state of Maharashtra and later went on to frame him.

He said he was in custody when the attacks took place.

He told the court that the man widely photographed as the sole surviving gunman in the attacks "was not me, but someone who resembles me".

In what our correspondent says was an apparent sign of his lack of belief that he will receive a fair trial, Mr Qasab urged the judge in the case to send him to jail as soon as possible.

On Wednesday the prosecution concluded its case in the trial.

In all, 610 witnesses have testified since the case began in March. Our correspondent says that Mr Qasab's latest comments mean that the main defence argument is one of identity.

Mr Qasab originally denied the charges against him but in July, in a dramatic outburst in court, he admitted his role and asked to be hanged. His plea was not accepted and the trial continued.

Following the attacks, India suspended peace talks with Pakistan.

After initial denials, Pakistan acknowledged that Mr Qasab was one of its citizens and that the attacks had been partially planned on its territory.

Last month, a court in Pakistan charged seven people in connection with the attacks, including the suspected mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, who is the alleged head of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba.