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Indian Court Upholds Death Sentence for Mumbai Terror Attacker

A policeman stands guard outside the Bombay High Court before the delivery of a judgement for Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, Mumbai, February 21, 2011

An Indian court has upheld a death sentence for a Pakistani who was the lone surviving gunman in Mumbai's terrorist attacks more than two years ago.

Twenty-two-year-old Mohammad Ajmal Kasab was described as smiling as Mumbai's high court rejected the appeal of his death sentence Friday.

Kasab was the only one of ten young Pakistani gunmen taken alive after three days of terrorist attacks against hotels and other civilian targets in November 2008 that killed 166 people. He received multiple death sentences based largely on extensive video evidence that showed him wielding automatic weapons at the attack sites.

Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram praised the Mumbai court's decision.

"This is a tribute to our legal system... The manner in which we have dealt with the Kasab case has actually raised the prestige of our legal system," Chidambaram said.

Prosecution lawyer Ujjwal Nikam says the court accepted his argument that Kasab had no hope of reform or rehabilitation.

He says he told the court this is the rarest of rare crimes. He says the court accepted that he is responsible for the deaths of 166 people, and therefore confirmed the death sentence.

The judges who rejected Kasab's appeal pointed out he killed innocent people mercilessly, with extreme perversity, and with no signs of remorse. They described the three-day terror campaign as a an attack on Indian sovereignty, and Kasab personally as a threat to society.

Kasab attended Friday's court session via teleconference, for reasons of security. His defense lawyer, Farhana Shah, says she plans to brief him on his next options when she sees him.

"Definitely I will tell him that he has all the legal right to go to honorable Supreme Court,” Shah said. “Because this is not the ultimate end."

In addition to appealing to the Supreme Court, Kasab has the right to make a plea for a presidential pardon. Dozens of other convicted criminals have filed similar clemency appeals – a fact that could delay his execution for years.