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India court begins trial of Mumbai terror attacks suspect

[JURIST] The trial of the only captured gunman in the November 2008 Mumbai terror attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab [NDTV backgrounder], began on Monday. Kasab appeared before specially appointed judge M.L. Tahiliyani at the Bombay High Court [official website] via video conferencing from prison. Kasab confirmed [Hindustan Times report] during questioning from Tahiliyani that he is from Faridkot in the Punjab area of Pakistan. The court also instructed Kasab that he would be appointed a lawyer [BBC report]. He is currently unrepresented as Indian laywers have refused to represent him. Kasab told the judge that he received a copy of the charge sheet explaining the 12 charges against him, which include murder and waging war against India. If convicted, Kasab will face a maximum sentence of death by hanging. The court will reconvene on March 30 to determine whether an extension is appropriate for security purposes in the prison.

Last month, Pakistan officials conceded [JURIST report] that the terrorist attacks were partially planned there. Pakistan also stated that the perpetrators traveled by ship [NYT report] from southern Pakistan to Mumbai, where they launched the attack from inflatable boats using outboard engines purchased in Karachi, Pakistan. One scholar suggested that an international tribunal be formed [JURIST op-ed] to prosecute persons involved in Mumbai attacks in order to avoid further complications to the already unstable relationship between Pakistan and India. In the wake of the attacks, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh [official website] pushed for tougher anti-terrorism measures [JURIST report]. The attacks in Mumbai, which claimed at least 170 lives, were carried out at ten locations across the city including the landmark Taj Mahal Palace hotel [hotel website]. The attacks were the worst the city has seen since a group of bombings killed more than 250 people in 1993.

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