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India court hears final arguments in Mumbai terror attack trial

[JURIST] An Indian court on Wednesday heard final arguments in the trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab [NDTV backgrounder], accused of participating in the November 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive], bringing the yearlong proceedings to a close. The court heard from more than 600 prosecution witnesses [WP report] and two members of the National Security Guard [official website] who responded to the attack. Prosecutors accuse Kasab of being one of the gunmen photographed during the attacks, which were allegedly coordinated by Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) [CFR backgrounder]. Kasab claims that he confessed to the crimes in February 2009 after being tortured [Hindu report] by police. Special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam praised [WSJ report] the speed with which the trial was conducted. Judge ML Tahiliyani, specially appointed [PTI report] in January 2009 to preside over the trial of three suspects detained after the attacks, reserved judgment [Times of India report] until May 3.

The lawyer for the accused gunman faced several setbacks during the trial, including a failed change of venue to a juvenile court [Indian Express report] and the introduction of the disputed confession. Kasab's first defense lawyer was removed [JURIST report] last year because she had agreed to represent a victim of the attacks in a civil suit. Kasab first appeared [JURIST report] before Tahiliyani in March 2009 via video. In February 2009, Pakistan officials conceded [JURIST report] that the attacks were partially planned in their country and that the perpetrators traveled by ship [NYT report] from southern Pakistan to Mumbai. One scholar had suggested that an international tribunal be formed [JURIST op-ed] in order to avoid further complications between Pakistan and India. The attacks in Mumbai, which claimed at least 170 lives, were carried out at 10 locations across the city including the landmark Taj Mahal Palace hotel where nine of the 10 gunmen were killed.

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