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India to execute 2003 bomb trio

Haneef Sayyed (left) and Ashrat Ansari are seen in a police van outside the Arthur Road Jail in Mumbai, 6 August
All three convicted bombers are expected to lodge appeals

A court in India has sentenced to death three people for carrying out bombings that killed more than 50 people in Mumbai (Bombay) in 2003.

Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda and Ashrat Ansari were convicted last month of murder and conspiracy.

The blasts at the Gateway of India landmark and a jewellery market caused carnage and shocked the nation.

They were said to be in retaliation for the deaths of Muslims during riots in Gujarat state the year before.

Hundreds have been killed in attacks in Mumbai in recent years.

The three convicted bombers were found to have links to a Pakistan-based Islamic militant group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, which investigators believe was involved in the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai.

'Pakistani link'

Judge MR Puranik, sitting at a special anti-terrorism court, ordered that all three people convicted "should be hanged by the neck until dead".

Indian policemen guard the bomb site in 2003
It would be a mockery of justice if the death penalty is not imposed
Ujjwal Nikam
chief public prosecutor

They stood impassive in the dock as the sentences were handed down, an AFP news agency correspondent reports.

Their lawyers have indicated that they will appeal against the death penalty, which is given rarely in India and is often delayed indefinitely or commuted by the president, the agency notes.

A lawyer for Haneef Sayyed argued his client should be sent to prison for life without parole and Fahmeeda Sayyed's counsel also argued against the death penalty, saying she was a poor, uneducated woman pressured into committing the crime by her husband.

Ansari's lawyer, Sushan Kunjuramaran, made no submissions but the convicted bomber told the judge he did not agree with the verdict.

Chief public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said the trio's crimes had shown "extreme brutality" and resulted in the "massacre of innocent people".

"It would be a mockery of justice if the death penalty is not imposed," he said before sentencing.

The double car bombing in August 2003 left devastation at the Gateway of India and the Zaveri Bazaar market near the Mumba Devi temple in central Mumbai.

Fahmeeda Sayyed (in black) is escorted out of the Byculla Womens Jail to hear her sentence in Mumbai, 6 August
A lawyer for Fahmeeda Sayyed argued she had been used by her husband

About 180 people were injured.

The three defendants, all of them from Mumbai, were charged under India's Prevention Of Terrorism Act, which has since been repealed.

Two others were accused - Mohammed Ansari and Mohammed Hasan. They were discharged after a review by the special court last year.

The three defendants were convicted of plotting the bombings in co-ordination with Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Lashkar is also accused of carrying out other attacks in India in recent years, including the gun and bomb assault on Mumbai last November.

Feared militants

The judge said all three defendants were members of the group, a charge which they denied.

Lashkar (the group's name translates as Soldiers of the Pure) is one of the most feared groups fighting against Indian control in Kashmir.

It was banned by Pakistan in January 2002 amid pressure that followed the 9/11 attacks on the US.

Until then Lashkar was able to operate openly inside Pakistan, raising funds and recruiting members.

Lashkar was accused by India of bomb attacks on Delhi in October 2005 that killed more than 60 people, and a December 2001 raid on India's parliament.

Indian investigators have also linked the group to the November 2008 attacks on Mumbai in which gunmen killed 166 people in a three-day rampage.

The man believed to be the only surviving gunman, Mohammad Ajmal Amir Qasab, pleaded guilty to a role in the attack at his trial in India last month.

He, too, could face the death penalty if his confession is accepted and judges agree to impose the maximum penalty.

In another development, Pakistan asked Interpol to issue a global alert for 13 individuals in connection with its investigation into the 2008 attacks.



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SEE ALSO
Twin blasts cause Bombay carnage
25 Aug 03 |  South Asia
Profile: Lashkar-e-Taiba
03 May 10 |  South Asia
Eyewitness: Chaos follows Bombay blasts
25 Aug 03 |  South Asia
Peaceful school or 'terror' base?
04 Dec 08 |  South Asia

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