India terror trial raises fear of unrest

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The Independent Online

An Indian judge has sealed testimony from the lone surviving Mumbai gunman in which he described how he was recruited and indoctrinated by Pakistani militants before launching last year's attacks which left 166 people dead.

The judge ruled that publishing details of the evidence provided by Ajmal Kasab, who earlier said he had been sent to India with instructions to kill as many people as possible, would damage the relationship between Hindus and Muslims. He also banned the reporting of a message from Kasab to his handlers in Pakistan.

Kasab, who on Monday made a surprise reversal of his plea and said he wanted to admit his role in November's attacks, said he had fired his automatic weapon at crowds of commuters at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) station while a fellow militant threw grenades. "[I was told] to open fire at CST and hold people hostage on the upper floor. We were also directed to fire at the person who came to free hostages," he said.

The judge, ML Tahiliyani, issued an order saying that reporting some of the accused's comments would not be in the interests of communal harmony. He adjourned the case without ruling whether the confession of Kasab – who faces a total of 86 charges – will be accepted. If found guilty, the defendant faces the death penalty.

On Monday, 21-year-old Kasab, famously captured on film by both a press photographer and a CCTV camera during the attacks, announced that he was changing his plea. "I have something to say. I want to confess," he told the court. Officials said he had recorded a three-hour confession as to his role in the attacks, which severely heightened tensions between India and Pakistan. A total of 38 people, most of them believed to be living in Pakistan, have been charged by Indian prosecutors.

Kasab said he had switched his plea because he had been told by his guards that Pakistan, long having denied he was a citizen of the country, had admitted he was Pakistani. He said that four men, including leaders of the Pakistan-based Islamic extremist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, had dispatched the militants from Karachi.

He said that he and a fellow militant Abu Ismail were tasked with attacking the CST station. From their landing spot on the beach, they took a taxi to the railway station where they killed more than 50 people.

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