Fri, Apr 17, 2009 - Page 5 News List

Mumbai attacks suspect seeking lawyer again

WAR CHARGE: The only lawyer Mohammed Ajmal Kasab could find who was willing to defend him was dismissed for also representing a victim in a compensation case


The only Islamist militant suspect captured during the Mumbai attacks was yesterday looking for another lawyer, after his state-appointed brief was sacked just as the high-profile trial was due to open.

Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Kasab appeared before a special court at a maximum security prison in Mumbai on Wednesday, at the start of a case that could see him handed the death penalty if convicted. But as the trial began, the judge dismissed the 21-year-old’s lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, for acting in a compensation case for a victim wounded during the deadly attacks.

The victim, whose injuries may have been caused by Kasab and an accomplice as they fled the carnage at Mumbai’s main railway station, is also a potential prosecution witness, judge M.L. Tahaliyani added.

The development means the process of appointing Kasab a lawyer has to start again. Tahaliyani said on Wednesday he hoped the issue could be resolved “within a day or two” so the prosecution can open their case possibly today.

Preparation for the trial has already been dogged by the struggle to find a lawyer willing to defend Kasab.

Last year, the Mumbai Metropolitan Magistrate Court’s Bar Association resolved not to represent him, while some lawyers who said they were willing to take on the case had their homes attacked.

Hindu radicals called for Kasab to be executed without trial outside the railway station where he and another militant are accused of opening fire on commuters with AK-47 assault rifles and throwing hand grenades.

Waghmare, the wife of a police officer whose colleagues died in the attacks, was appointed from a panel of state legal aid lawyers on March 30. She was also denounced for accepting the brief and had her Mumbai home stoned.

Speaking after her dismissal, Waghmare denied any professional misconduct, saying her withdrawal was a “precautionary measure” and she bore the court no ill will.

Kasab has asked for a Pakistani lawyer. Tahaliyani said the brief had to be Indian, but has asked for the Pakistani authorities to give the defendant every legal assistance.

The defendant, said to belong to the banned Pakistan-based Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba, faces a string of charges including “waging war” on India, murder, attempted murder and kidnapping.

The 60-hour attacks in late November saw 10 gunmen land in the city by boat and kill more than 160 people in a packed railway station, two luxury hotels, a popular cafe and Jewish center. A further 300 people were wounded.

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