RANCHI, INDIA — Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only gunman captured alive in last year’s Mumbai attacks that killed more than 160 people, today unexpectedly retracted his confession about his role in the attacks, fueling speculation about the future of his high-profile trial, which the prosecution earlier claimed would end in days.
In a bizarre twist, Mr. Kasab denied his involvement in the attacks, alleging that he had arrived in Mumbai 20 days before it happened to find work in Bollywood films. He claimed the Mumbai police had framed him, and that all his previous confessions were false and made under duress.
The prosecution claims that Kasab’s retraction, just one of the many twists in his trial since it began in May, is not likely to have an “adverse effect on the trial.” Ujwal Nikam, the chief prosecutor, dismissed his statement as a shrewd ploy of a “dramatic actor” and a soulless terrorist “trained to manipulate people.” He said it was a bid to prolong his trial.
Kasab, who is 21 and was dubbed the “baby-faced killer,” launched a commando-style raid with nine other gunmen in Mumbai in November 2008, killing nearly 166 people. The only survivor among 10 terrorists, he became a poster boy for terror after he was photographed marching through Mumbai with his gun bared.
When the judge today questioned him about the photograph, the most clinching evidence of his involvement, Kasab responded, it “was not me, but someone who resembles me.”
On Wednesday, the prosecution rested its case after 610 witnesses testified against Kasab. He faces 86 criminal charges slapped on Kasab, including charges of murder and waging war against the state, crimes that transmit the death penalty if proven guilty.
Not his first retraction
Kasab’s retraction today is not his first.
When his trial began in early May in a special courtroom inside Arthur Road Jail, Mumbai’s largest and oldest prison, Kasab firmly pleaded not guilty.
This was after he had admitted to his crime in jail, where he allegedly stated that he had been trained by a Pakistani Army major. But in court, he retracted his confession, claiming that he was physically tortured and coerced by the police.
Kasab was uncooperative with the prosecution, unruly and overly talkative on some occasions, and cold and indifferent on many others. When some witnesses narrated heart-rending tales of loss while testifying against him, he burst into giggles.
But as weeks passed, he became quieter. There were signs that the trial was taking a psychological toll.
In July, nearly three months after his trial began, in a dramatic outburst in the court, Kasab pleaded guilty.
His confession, which surprised his own lawyer, was almost theatrical.
“I do not want punishment from God,” he said. “Whatever I have done in this world I should get punished for it by this world itself.”