The main suspect in last year’s deadly terrorist attack in Mumbai has received a replacement lawyer, which will allow his high-profile trial to resume, authorities said Thursday.
The trial of Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, 21, halted Wednesday after a judged declared that his attorney had a conflict of interest. Court officials scrambled to find a replacement lawyer and were able to replace Kasab’s lawyer Thursday. The trial was to resume Thursday afternoon, with opening statements beginning on Friday. Kasab is thought to be the only one of 10 gunmen to survive the three-day siege, which killed more than 160 people in November in India’s financial capital. As the trial was to begin Wednesday, the judge removed Kasab’s attorney, Anjali Waghmare, because she also was representing a witness in the case. Waghmare argued that she had no idea that the person was a witness in the terror case, and she was representing that person in a different case. But the judge declared it a conflict of interest. An Indian court appointed Waghmare two weeks ago to represent Kasab.
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Attorney Abbas Kazmi replaced Waghmare on Thursday and was introduced to his client. Kazmi is Indian and is a private attorney. Kasab, a Pakistani national, faces more than a dozen charges, including murder, conspiracy to wage a war against the nation and terrorism. Kasab had demanded a Pakistani lawyer. Prosecutors said in court that Kasab’s request had been passed on to Pakistan through India’s Ministry of External Affairs, but Indian authorities have not received a response.
Indian authorities have long blamed the Mumbai attack on Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, a Pakistan-based militant outfit, but the group has denied responsibility. The violence initially heightened tensions between the two nuclear states. India has urged Pakistan to destroy what it calls terrorist infrastructure in that country. The two nations are longtime rivals that have fought three wars since their independence from the British, and conducted countering nuclear weapons tests in 1998.