By Phil Hazlewood (AFP) – Aug 4, 2009
MUMBAI — An Indian judge on Tuesday adjourned sentencing on three people found guilty of planting bombs that killed 52 people in Mumbai in 2003, as the prosecutor pushed for the death penalty.
Judge M.R. Puranik, sitting at a special anti-terror court in the city, deferred judgement on Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda Sayyed and Ashrat Ansari until Thursday after hearing arguments from their lawyers.
All three were convicted of a string of charges last week, including murder and attempted murder, after two bombs exploded at the Gateway of India monument and the Zaveri Bazaar jewellery quarter on August 25, 2003.
The court heard the blasts were carried out in retaliation for Hindu atrocities against Muslims during riots in western Gujarat state in 2002 and the trio claimed to be members of the so-called "Gujarat Muslim Revenge Force".
Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam also claimed they were members of the banned, Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was also allegedly behind Mumbai attacks last year that killed 166 people.
Haneef Sayyed's lawyer, Abdul Wahab Khan, argued that his client, now 51, should not be put to death but instead be given a life sentence without parole. Because of his age, he would probably die in prison, he said.
Fahmeeda Sayyed's counsel, Sudeep Pasbola, told the judge she was a poor, uneducated woman who was pressured into committing the crime by her husband out of Muslim duty and was taken along to "camouflage" the group's intentions.
"She has children to look after. If both (she and her husband) are hanged, they will be orphans. She has not played any part in the conspiracy. Her role was limited and therefore a lesser sentence is enough," he said.
Ansari's lawyer made no submissions.
Nikam rejected the arguments, saying the offences fell into the "rarest of rare" category of crimes deemed appropriate for a judge to pass the death sentence.
The bombings, meticulously planned and executed, were of "extreme brutality" leading to the "massacre of innocent people", he said.
On the plea for leniency for Fahmeeda Sayyed, he added: "We all know that the fair sex is regarded as a weakling. However, discrimination applies only to human beings and not to the animal kingdom.
"A tiger and a tigress are both equally violent ... I'm sorry to say that Haneef and Fahmeeda are also travelling in the same boat."
There were no mitigating circumstances for any of the three, Nikam said, adding: "It would be a mockery of justice if the death penalty is not imposed."
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