The lone Islamist militant suspect captured by police during last November’s Mumbai attacks told an Indian court yesterday that he was from Pakistan and would accept a court-appointed lawyer to defend him.
Mohammed Ajmal Amir Iman, also known as Kasab, appeared before special judge M.L. Tahiliyani via video link from the Mumbai jail where he is being housed in a high-security cell.
Dressed in a gray T-shirt, the bearded Iman, asked by the court if he wanted a lawyer for the trial, replied: “If there will be a trial then I will need a lawyer.”
Iman, who faces charges including murder, attempted murder and “waging war against India” over the attacks that killed 165 people, told the court he was a resident of Faridkot in the Punjab area of Pakistan.
The 21-year-old Iman was the only alleged member of the 10-man hardline commando-type unit captured alive during the Nov. 26 to Nov. 29 siege.
The charges filed against Iman were also filed against two alleged accomplices, Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, both Indian nationals, who police believe gave logistical support to the attackers.
A total of 38 people have been charged in the case. The charge sheet totals a massive 11,280 pages and contains accounts of more than 2,200 witnesses as well as other evidence provided by the FBI, which helped Indian police with the probe.
Those charged as key planners of the attacks included Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the militant Islamist Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) group India says was behind the attacks, and other senior Lashkar members Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi and Zarar Shah.
Some 165 people were killed and 308 injured when 10 gunmen arrived in Mumbai by boat and attacked a string of targets including luxury hotels, a crowded railway station, a cafe and a Jewish center.
The attacks soured a five-year peace process between India and Pakistan as New Delhi blamed the assault on the LeT and “official agencies” in Pakistan — a reference to the country’s spy service.
Both the LeT and Pakistan have denied involvement, although Islamabad has admitted the attacks were planned partly in Pakistan and filed a case against eight suspects.
Iman, who is reported to have received anonymous death threats, was not produced in court for security reasons.
After being told the judge who was conducting the hearing would preside over the trial, Iman smiled and replied with the traditional Indian Hindu greeting “Namaste.”
Public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said yesterday was the formal opening of the trial, but the day-to-day schedule would not begin for three weeks.
The prosecution has asked the court to postpone the trial to April 13 in order to ready a special high security court in Arthur Road jail.
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