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May 06, 2010 at 10:11am IST

Will Kasab get death? India awaits sentence

Mumbai: More than 17 months after one of the most horrific terror attacks in India which left a 166 dead and over 300 injured, the only gunman to be captured alive during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks will know his fate.

Hours from now, the special court will pronounce the quantum of punishment for Mohammad Ajmal Amir Kasab in what's perhaps India's most awaited sentencing. On Monday, the court headed by Sessions Judge M L Tahliyani found Kasab guilty of murder and waging war against the nation.

The 26/11 trial has also been one of the shortest that the country has seen so far. In February 25, 2009 the Mumbai Crime Branch filed the chargesheet running into more than 11,000 pages. It contained statements of 2000 witnesses, named 35 Pakistani nationals as wanted accused.

In May 6, 2009 the special sessions court framed 86 charges against Kasab and co-accused in the case. Over the next seven months, it examined 658 witnesses, including FBI agents. Evidence including CCTV footage, telephonic intercepts, forensic and scientific reports, was also submitted to the court.

In June 2009, non-bailable warrants are issued against 22 absconders including Hafeez Saeed and Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi. By March 23, 2010 final arguments have concluded.

"We had to complete the charge sheet within 90 days. At no cost we wanted to take a day extra as there was international scrutiny and everybody's eyeballs were on Mumbai Police," says ATS Chief Rakesh Maria.

But the 26/11 attacks wasn't bereft of its own share of twists and turns. In February 21, 2009, Kasab voluntarily confessed before the magistrate, only to retract it days later.

In May 6, Kasab pleaded not guilty to all the 86 charges he was framed under. On July he did a dramatic U-turn and retracted the not-guilty plea while giving chilling details of planning, training and execution of 26/11 attacks. In December 2009, Kasab claimed innocence again. He claimed that he had come to India via Samjhauta Express, and was roaming around Juhu Chowpatty when the police picked him up and framed him.

After 189 days of trial proceedings, In May 3, 2010, Kasab was pronounced guilty. However, the victory was partial for the prosecution because his alleged co-accused Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed were acquitted by the same court for the want of evidence.

Nevertheless, as Kasab gets ready to face the sentence, the big question now is - will Ajmal Kasab be given the death sentence?

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