MUMBAI, Aug 6, 2009 (AFP) - An Indian court on Thursday sentenced to death three people, including a married couple, for planting bombs that killed 52 in the city of Mumbai in 2003.
Judge M.R. Puranik, sitting at a special anti-terrorism court, ordered that Haneef Sayyed, his wife Fahmeeda Sayyed, and Ashrat Ansari "should be hanged by the neck until dead" for murder, criminal conspiracy and terrorism.
All three were convicted last week, six years after bombs exploded at the Gateway of India monument and in the Zaveri Bazaar jewellery quarter.
They stood impassive in the dock as the sentences were handed down.
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 court had 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 said they were members of the banned, Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which was also allegedly behind last year's militant attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.
Haneef Sayyed's lawyer had argued that his client should be sent to prison for life without parole.
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 out of Muslim duty and was taken along to "camouflage" the group's intentions.
Ansari's lawyer Sushan Kunjuramaran made no submissions but the convicted bomber told the judge he did not agree with the verdict.
Prosecutor Nikam rejected the defence arguments, saying the offences fell into the "rarest of rare" category of crimes deemed appropriate for a judge to pass the death sentence.
The meticulously planned and executed bombings, carried out by planting high-explosive devices in the boots of taxis, were of "extreme brutality" and led to the "massacre of innocent people", he told the court.
"It would be a mockery of justice if the death penalty is not imposed," he added.
The trial was the biggest anti-terrorism case in the city since the 1993 "Black Friday" bombings in which 257 people were killed and at least 800 others were injured.