After months of delays the trial of the lone surviving suspect in the Mumbai terror attacks finally got underway Friday.
Mohammad Ajmal Kasab is charged with 12 criminal counts including murder, attempted murder, and waging war against India. Police say he was caught on surveillance camera holding a gun as he stalked and killed people inside Mumbai’s main train station. Kasab is also accused of shooting down people at Mumbai’s Cama hospital. Kasab is one of 10 Pakistani nationals who police say reigned down terror on Mumbai, India’s financial capital, for four days and three nights. Police say the men gunned down more than 160 people in the attack as they took over three luxury hotels and a Jewish center and shot up several other places including a popular restaurant. Police say Kasab is the only suspected gunman caught alive. In his opening statements Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam read from Kasab’s alleged confession about how he trained for the attack. Nikam said, “The terror attack was in order to capture Kashmir.”
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Kashmir has long been a source of tension between India and Pakistan. The dispute over who owns the territory has resulted in wars between the two countries. It’s alleged Kasab and his cohorts traveled to India from Pakistan by boat for the sole purpose of attacking India. Late in the day Kasab’s newly appointed defense attorney Abbas Kazmi said Kasab was now retracting his statements, saying he confessed under police pressure. Kazmi also argued that Kasab was under age at the time of the attacks and should be tried in Juvenile Court, but Judge M.L. Tahilyani disagreed saying Kasab was older than 17 at the time of the attack. The prosecutor put Kasab’s age at 21. The trial was supposed to get underway April 15 but in a stunning turn of events the original court appointed defense attorney for Kasab was dismissed from the case that day. Tahilyani removed lawyer Anjali Waghmare from the case saying she failed to disclose pertinent information to the court. The court said it was brought to its attention that Waghmare was listed as an attorney for a victim of the Mumbai attacks who was seeking compensation from the state.
That victim also happens to be a witness against Kasab in this trial. In court Waghmare said she did not agree to take the victims case but had talked to him. She also said she was unaware that he was listed as a witness in Kasab’s trial. The next day the judge appointed Kazmi, who was in the court during the proceedings observing the trial as a member of the Indian Bar Association.