Death sentence for India restaurant bomb plotter

An Indian court sentenced a cyber cafe worker to death on Thursday for his role in a deadly bomb blast which ripped through a restaurant in the western city of Pune three years ago, lawyers said.

Mirza Himayat Baig was found guilty earlier this week of criminal conspiracy and murder for the attack on the packed German Bakery restaurant, which killed 17 people including five foreigners.

"The court said it was the rarest of rare cases and gave the death penalty because they found him guilty of a terrorist act," special public prosecutor Raja Thakare told AFP.

Baig, in his early 30s, will appeal against the judgment to a higher court, defence counsel A. Rehman said after the sentence was delivered in Pune, around 150 kilometres (90 miles) southeast of India's financial capital Mumbai.

The blast on February 13, 2010 in Maharashtra state was the first major attack in India after the 2008 assault on Mumbai by Islamist gunmen that left 166 dead.

Thakare said Baig was connected to the Indian Mujahideen, a shadowy home-grown Islamist network allegedly linked to the Pakistan-based militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for orchestrating the Mumbai attack.

Five co-accused in the Pune blast case are still at large, including the man believed to have planted the bomb in a rucksack left under a table, which also injured more than 60 people.

The bomb exploded while the restaurant was jammed with mainly young Indians and tourists, creating a huge hole in the wall and sending those inside fleeing and screaming in panic for their lives.

Prosecutors had told the court the conspirators planned the attack at a meeting in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where Baig was trained to make a bomb, but the defence team denied this and said he was not in Pune at the time of the blast.

Baig, who used to run a cyber cafe in Maharashtra, was arrested following several months of investigation after police found explosives at his home in Latur in Maharashtra, local reports said.

Pune was hit again last August by a string of low-intensity blasts that targeted a bustling restaurant and shopping area, injuring one person.