'Go ahead and hang me'

2009-07-23 17:06

Mumbai - An Indian judge on Thursday ruled the trial of the sole surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks would continue despite the accused confessing to his role in the carnage.

Judge ML Tahaliyani described Mohammed Ajmal Kasab's surprise confession as only a "partial admission" of guilt to the scores of charges the Pakistani national faces over the attacks, in which 10 gunmen killed 166 people in November last year.

"The statement made by accused number one (Kasab) is a partial admission," Tahaliyani said. "He has however not admitted to all of the 86 charges framed against him."

The prosecution argued that Kasab's confession from the dock on Monday, after he had initially pleaded not guilty, minimised his role in the violence and could even have been an attempt to help his mentors awaiting trial in Pakistan.

Evidence from the Mumbai trial could theoretically be used in Pakistan against five members of Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, including the alleged mastermind Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, prosecution lawyers have told the court.

But the judge said: "I don't think that there is any technical move on the part of the accused number one to scuttle the trial with a view to help his alleged mentors in Pakistan."

The judge ruled that Kasab's confession would be kept on record and considered by the court "at an appropriate stage."

He ordered the trial to continue and said the next witness would be called in the afternoon session.

Prosecuting lawyer Ujjwal Nikam said that the judge's decision "totally vindicated" his stance that the confession should not end the trial.

"Please go ahead and hang me," Kasab told the court on Wednesday, stressing he had not confessed to avoid the death penalty.