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NEW DELHI: Indian officials yesterday submitted a clemency plea to the president by the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, opening the final appeal stage against his death sentence.
Pakistan-born Mohammed Kasab, currently in jail in Mumbai, was one of 10 gunmen who laid siege to the city in attacks that lasted nearly three days and killed 166 people.
“Now it is for the president of India to take a final call as he holds the supreme authority in this matter,” a senior home ministry official said, requesting anonymity. Home ministry yesterday recommended the rejection of the mercy petition of Ajmal Kasab, , a government source said.
The mercy petition made to the president by Kasab, after the Supreme Court on August 29 upheld his death sentence, has been rejected and the recommendation in this regard forwarded to the president, the source said.
A home ministry spokesman said briefly: “It (mercy petition) has been processed and submitted to the president.”
Following the home ministry’s recommendation, it is now left to President Pranab Mukherjee to take a decision on Kasab’s mercy plea. The Mumbai trial court had on May 6, 2010 awarded death sentence to Kasab which was upheld by the Bombay High Court on February 21, 2011.
He appealed in the Supreme Court claiming he did not receive a fair trial, but his petition was struck down in August. Prisoners can often languish for years on death row in India, with only one execution having taken place in the last 15 years - that of a former security guard hanged in 2004 for the rape and murder of a 14-year-old girl.
During the 2008 attacks, the heavily armed gunmen stormed targets in Mumbai including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a hospital and a bustling train station.
India blames the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) militant organisation for training, equipping and financing the gunmen with support from “elements” in the Pakistan military.
President Pranab Mukherjee, who took office in July, is considering 11 other appeals from death row prisoners.
Reacting to the development, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) demanded that the apex court decision awarding death sentence to Kasab should be implemented at the earliest.
BJP leader Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi said: “He (Kasab) had hatched a conspiracy against the country. It (his hanging) will be a lesson to those who consider India a soft target and indulge in terror activities.”
He said it will be a befitting reply to forces in Pakistan who have been giving encouragement to terror activities against the country. The apex court had rejected Kasab’s contention that he was a mere tool in the hands of terror outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba.