The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Killer with a swagger

From within the courtroom lock-up, American Center attack mastermind Aftab Ansari stared hard at judge Basudeb Majumdar, face set in grim defiance.

The time was 4.45 pm at Presidency jail and Majumdar was about to conclude his sentence sending the seven convicted in the attack to the gallows.

As the judge came to the end of his verdict and looked up, pin-drop silence descended on the makeshift courtroom.

Aftab then stood up slowly and walked to the edge of the lock-up.

Gripping the bars, the bearded man spoke aloud, his voice a touch sarcastic: 'Sir, we have waited a long time to finally hear the sentence. Thank you for at least not making us wait till tomorrow.'

One of his associates urged him with a gesture to return to the bench. But Aftab had not finished yet.

Turning to co-sentenced Adil Hassan, he said: 'Chal, bahut ho gaya. Yahan ka kaam khatam ho gaya (Let's go, our work here is over).'

With that, he turned his back on the judge and retreated into the lock-up. There he stood, leaning against the bars, shaking a leg and staring across the courtroom.

Adil then got up and accompanied his former 'boss' to the back of the lock-up and stood talking to him in whispers.

A while later, when the convicts were handed their copies of the order and they were being led back to their cells, an old man ' possibly a relative of one of the seven ' came up to Aftab, only to be brushed aside. Aftab was in no mood for commiseration.

Late on Wednesday, chief disciplinary officer of Presidency jail Paresh Bose said Aftab had lost none of his composure.

'When he had first come to this jail, he looked as if he could get away with murder. Today, even after being sentenced to death, he has that same confident air about him,' Bose told Metro.

If Aftab was all defiance, the others handed the death sentence looked stunned. At first, none of them would speak, shocked at the turn of events over two days.

Musarat Hussain was the first to react, calling out to his lawyer and seeking permission to speak to his wife, Shahana Begum.

Shahana was led to his side and they spoke softly for a few precious moments. 'Yeh aapas ki baat hai,' said Shahana, asked what they had discussed.

Shakir Akhtar was the next to pull himself together, as he gestured to his father, beckoning him to his side. He, too, spoke in hushed tones.

The others ' Adil, Jamiluddin Nasir, Rehan Alam and Hasrat Alam ' just waited silently to be led back to their cells.

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