The trial of the only surviving gunman from the Mumbai massacre began today with the prosecutor calling the attacks “a criminal conspiracy hatched in Pakistan to attack India”.
Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said at least one Pakistani military officer was involved in the attack and its sophistication suggested the involvement of the country’s powerful intelligence agency.
Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, a Pakistani, is charged with 12 criminal counts, including murder and waging war against India. Nine other gunmen were killed.
Police said he confessed to the siege that left 166 people dead and injured 304 others. Today Kasab’s lawyer said the confession should be thrown out because his client was tortured.
“There was a criminal conspiracy hatched in Pakistan to attack India,” Nikam said, with the “ultimate target of capturing Jammu and Kashmir, which is part and parcel of India.”
The Himalayan region of Kashmir, which is divided between India and Pakistan but claimed by both, has long been at the centre of the bitterness between the two South Asian rivals.
The prosecutor vowed to get to “the root of terror” and said the identity of all those involved would be revealed through the ongoing investigation.
Nikam alleged the November attacks were masterminded by the Muslim militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba with the help of at least one Pakistani military officer. He said the plot was made possible by a “terrorist culture” that had taken root in Pakistan.
Lashkar-e-Taiba is widely believed to have been created by Pakistani intelligence agencies in the 1980s to fight Indian rule in Kashmir.
Pakistani officials have admitted that the November attacks were partly plotted on their soil and announced criminal proceedings against eight suspects. They have also acknowledged that Kasab is Pakistani but have repeatedly denied their intelligence agencies were involved in the attack.
The prosecutor also read out excerpts from a confession Kasab gave to Indian interrogators detailing his terror training in Pakistan.
Kasab’s lawyer Abbas Kazmi asked the court to disregard the confession. The court will later record Kasab’s statement.
“It was extracted out of coercion and force,” he said. “It was not a voluntary statement. He was physically tortured during custody.”
Earlier Mr Kazmi applied to have the trial moved to a juvenile court, saying his client was 16 years old – and legally a minor – at the time of the attack.
Kasab told Indian investigators he was born in September 1987, which would have made him 21 when the siege took place.
Kasab’s two co-defendants, Faheem Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, are Indian nationals charged with helping plot the attacks. Their lawyer maintains that they are innocent.
Court officials say they hope the case will be finished in six months to a year - which would be extremely fast by the standards of major Indian trials.
The trial for India’s deadliest terror attack, the 1993 Mumbai bombings that killed 257 people, took 14 years to complete.