The sole surviving gunman in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, who was caught on camera wielding a AK-47 in the city’s train station, on Friday surprised a court by denying any involvement in the assault.
During questioning, Mohammad Ajmal Kasab reversed a previous confession to the Mumbai court, saying he had been picked up by police some days prior to the attacks and later framed for them.
“Normally this kind of thing happens in criminal cases in India,” said Bahukutumbi Raman, director of the Institute of Topical Studies in Chennai.
Mr Raman said denying an earlier confession was a common defence tactic aimed at sowing confusion in the court and tying up the proceedings.
Alleged by the Indian authorities to be a Pakistani national, Mr Kasab is accused of being one of 10 terrorists who brought Mumbai to a standstill for nearly three days in late November 2008 with an attack that left nearly 170 people dead.
Mr Kasab and a partner strolled through Mumbai’s main railway station, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, spraying commuters with bullets at point blank range, before they commandeered a police vehicle and then a civilian car. The two men were later stopped by a police roadblock, at which point Mr Kasab’s partner was killed.
The case is seen as an important political exercise for India’s government, whose credibility was damaged by its perceived slowness in quelling the attacks.
Mr Kasab, who faces a possible death penalty for his alleged role in the attacks, has become a figure of hate among the Indian public. Most defence lawyers are afraid to represent him for fear for their safety.
While facing questioning from the judge on Friday, a smiling Mr Kasab denied having met leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Pakistani militant group that India alleges planned the attack. He said he was in India prior to the attacks looking for work.
The statements are the latest in a series of recantations by the 21-year-old. On his arrest by police, Mr Kasab confessed to his role in the attacks but then pleaded not guilty when the trial began in April.
A few months later, he surprised both the court and his own lawyer by suddenly confessing to his role in a detailed account before the judge. At the time, he said he was willing to face the death penalty if required.
The government and police are keen to secure a conviction of Mr Kasab. They are facing further embarrassment for their lack of intelligence prior to the attacks.
The US justice department has accused a Chicago man, David Coleman Headley, of helping to plot the attacks by surveilling targets for Lashkar-e-Taiba.
Mr Headley, who denies the charges, is accused of making five trips to Mumbai between 2006 and 2008 undetected by the authorities.
“Kasab’s case is important from the point of view of public morale and the credibility of the government,” said Mr Raman. “It’s important for them to get a full conviction.”