Mumbai attack lawyer under threat

Indian police escort lawyer Anjali Waghmare as she leaves her residence in Mumbai on March 31.
Indian attorney Anjali Waghmare says she has faced protests, threats and her home has been attacked because she has agreed to represent the lone surviving suspect of the Mumbai terror attacks.

Waghmare was appointed by a Mumbai court to represent Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, who told the court he can not afford to pay for a lawyer. “I am doing everything on my own risk for the interest of the country,” Waghmare told CNN’s sister network, CNN-IBN. She now has serious concerns about her safety. Police say demonstrators threw stones and chanted loudly during a midnight protest outside Waghmare’s home after it was reported that she had accepted to be Kasab’s attorney. The protesters were from a political far right Hindu group called Shiv Sena. Protesters also targeted another court-appointed lawyer who eventually withdrew from the case. The difficulty finding an attorney to represent Kasab has forced delays in the trial. Police say Kasab — along with nine other gunmen — carried out the November terrorist attacks in Mumbai that killed more than 160 people. He now faces a number of charges including murder and waging war against India. He has not yet entered a plea. Some Indians see defending Kasab at trial as unpatriotic.

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But no matter what the masses think, the law in India is clear when it comes to representation. On the issue of competent representation, the Indian Supreme Court said in 1979 that: “Popular frenzy of official wrath shall not deter a member of the Bar from offering his services to those who wear unpopular names or unpalatable causes and the Indian advocate may not fail this standard.” Legal experts point out that without an attorney to represent the accused, the trial cannot proceed and justice cannot be served. That point is not lost on the victims’ families. Additional Solicitor General of India, Mohan Parasaran told CNN: “Even the relatives of the victims have appreciated the stand. And they have said that it is important that justice is ultimately done, people are brought to justice, [the] trial should proceed and nobody should oppose the appointment of a counsel.”

Parasaran said he believes the suspect can get a fair trial. The government has already begun providing the highest level of security with up to 36 guards charged with insuring Waghmare’s safety. “The government has assured me that they will give me security throughout the trial,” she said.