Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Mumbai 'attacker' lawyer sacked
The lawyer for the only surviving suspected gunman from last year's Mumbai attacks has been sacked, further delaying the high-profile trial.

Pakistani national Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab is charged with murder and waging war on India, and appeared in court for the first time earlier.

But the trial judge dismissed the main defence lawyer over claims she was representing a witness in the case.

More than 170 people died when gunmen attacked the city last November.

Mr Qasab, 21, faces the death penalty if he is convicted.

Conflict of interest

He had been due to meet his defence lawyer, Anjali Waghmare, and decide what plea to enter.

But trial judge ML Tahiliyani removed Ms Waghmare for "professional misconduct", saying it did not "appear appropriate" to continue with her as a defence lawyer.

"The interest of the victim and the accused clash with each other... Her appointment stands revoked immediately," he said.

Ms Waghmare is alleged to have signed up to represent Sri Vardhan Kar - a victim of one of the attacks.

Ms Waghmare said she had met Mr Kar once, but had not agreed to represent him. After legal discussions between the judge and lawyers, prosecutor Ujwal Nikam told reporters that Mr Qasab had now asked for a Pakistani lawyer to represent him.

Mr Nikam said foreign lawyers are not allowed to represent defendants in Indian courts, but Indian officials would now ask Pakistan to choose an Indian lawyer for him.

In the meantime, Mr Nikam said the court hoped to appoint a lawyer for the defendant on Thursday.

Tight security

India has accused Pakistan-based fighters from the banned group Lashkar-e-Taiba of carrying out the attacks. Pakistan has admitted they were partly planned on its soil.

Mr Qasab was arrested on the first day of the attacks and has been in custody ever since.


Firing at CST train station
Firing inside and outside Cama Hospital
Hijacking of Skoda vehicle
Murder of MV Kuber boatman
Firing at Girgaum Chowpatty beach
Two Indians who are accused of being Lashkar-e-Taiba members, Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed, also face trial. They are accused of scouting for the attacks.

The trial was due to get under way in earnest last week, but was delayed because the high-security courtroom was not ready.

A huge security operation was launched involving hundreds of armed police and soldiers to ensure Mr Qasab's first appearance passed off smoothly.

All three of the accused appeared in court on Wednesday morning.

Our correspondent says Mr Qasab, bearded and wearing a grey T-shirt and dark track suit trousers with red stripes, greeted the judge and smiled throughout the proceedings.

Mr Qasab chatted to the other two defendants in the dock, but was told to stop by the judge.

He spoke again only when he was asked by the judge whether he knew his lawyers, to which he replied "I don't know" and "I don't remember".

Reporters in the court said Mr Qasab, whose first language is Urdu, seemed to pay little attention to the court proceedings.

A 6m-long (20ft) bomb-proof tunnel has been built to connect Mr Qasab's jail cell to the court where he is being tried.

It is the first time a measure like this has been taken in India.

For security reasons Mr Qasab's two previous appearances before the trial judge have been through a video link.

Traffic in the area was severely restricted on Wednesday, with motorists being told to avoid routes near the prison.

This case has generated huge interest in India, whose citizens were outraged by what they saw as the inability of their leaders to protect them in November.

India's government is under pressure to deliver results in the case, especially as the first phase of voting in the country's general elections begins on Thursday.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/04/15 12:07:03 GMT


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