As 26/11 trial opens, Kasab admits he is Pakistani, wants a lawyer


Mumbai : Captured terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Amir, alias Kasab, Monday admitted that he is from Faridkot in Pakistan and demanded that he be provided a lawyer by the Maharashtra government.

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Appearing in a video-conference before special judge M.L. Tahilyani on the first day of trial by the special court trying the Nov 26, 2008 Mumbai terror attackers, Kasab said he received a copy of the 11,000-plus pages chargesheet.

“Do you know who I am? I am your judge in this case,” Tahilyani informed Kasab. At this, Kasab immediately responded with “Namaste”, which the judge reciprocated.

When asked by Tahilyani whether he had a lawyer, Kasab replied in the negative. To a question: “Do you want to engage a laywer?” Kasab replied that he wanted to appoint a lawyer and asked for the same lawyer who defended him earlier.

When Special Public Prosecutor Ujwal Nikam pointed out that no lawyer has appeared on his behalf so far, the judge asked Kasab whether he could afford to pay for a lawyer.

As Kasab remained silent, the judge asked whether he would like a lawyer paid for by the government. Kasab gave his consent.

Shortly thereafter, the two other Lashkar-e-Taiba activists who are co-accused in the case, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Mohammed, were also presented before the special judge through a video link.

Fahim immediately sought permission to change his lawyer Aejaz Naqvi. Tahilyani asked Sabahuddin what his next move would be, since his co-accused (Fahim) wanted a change of the lawyer who represents both of them.

Sabahuddin informed the court that he would discuss the matter with Fahim and inform the judge later.

The hearing will continue later Monday.

The media were given written account of the morning session’s proceedings as per an earlier order of Tahilyani.

The trial formally opened here Monday at the special court set up inside the tightly guarded precincts of the Arthur Road Jail in south-central Mumbai. The jail is being guarded by a three-tier security force comprising the Mumbai police, the Indo-Tibetan Border Police and the jail’s own security personnel.

Nikam told IANS here that Monday marked the formal opening of the trial but the actual trial on a day-to-day basis would be held only after three weeks.

“This is because the state government has written to us that they needed at least another two weeks to complete the work of constructing the Special Court inside Arthur Road Jail premises. I have moved an application requesting the Honourable Special Judge to decide the date of the actual trial accordingly,” Nikam said.

Last month, the Mumbai Police filed a voluminous chargesheet running into over 11,000 pages against Kasab and 37 others including Ansari and Sabahuddin.

The remaining 35 have been listed in the chargesheet as “wanted absconders”. Among the charges under different sections of various Indian laws are waging war against the nation, terrorist activities, kidnapping, entering the country illegally, attempt to murder, murders, planning and abetting the Mumbai terror attacks, attacks conspiracy, etc.

Nine associates of Kasab were killed by the combined security forces that battled the terrorists for 60 hours at several locations, including a busy railway terminus, luxury hotels and a Jewish centre, all in south Mumbai.

The carnage resulted in the killings of over 170 people, including 26 foreigners and 18 security personnel.