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Homeland Security


Accused Mumbai Terrorist Finally Finds Lawyer

By Steve Herman
New Delhi
01 April 2009

The sole surviving gunman suspected of participating last year's terrorist attack in Mumbai has been having difficulty keeping a lawyer. His latest court-appointed counsel had threatened to quit after angry demonstrators surrounded her home. But the lawyer has agreed to stay on the case.

The latest defense attorney appointed to represent Mohammad Ajmal Kasab began having second thoughts almost immediately.

Court-appointed lawyer Anjali Waghmare had written a note Monday night to protesters pelting her house with stones that she would bow to their demand not to represent an accused terrorist. But, after promises of police protection, on Wednesday, the 40-year-old senior advocate of the Maharashtra state public legal authority agreed to stay on the case.

"In fact, my life is in threat," she noted. "Let me tell [say] I'm doing everything on my own risk for the interest of the country, which I reiterate and reiterate and reiterate the same sentence. I'm doing [this] for the interest of justice."

Indian media report Waghmare, who is married to an assistant police commissioner, will receive the highest tier of protection ("Z" level with 36 armed guards), normally reserved for members of the Indian cabinet, state leaders, members of the supreme court and certain politicians under threat.

Waghmare was named to defend Kasab after other lawyers, who had been appointed or considered, opted out.

Police say they arrested nine demonstrators from the far-right Hindu Shiv Sena party outside Waghmare's residence.

The home minister of the state of Maharashtra, Jayant Patil, says intimidation of defense lawyers will hinder the delivery of justice in the high-profile case.

The special prosecutor in the case also has condemned such protests, saying the world must see the suspect receive a fair trial in India. Kasab faces charges of murder and of "waging war" against India. His trial is scheduled to begin week. If convicted, he could be sentenced to death.

Kasab, arrested at the end of the 60-hour siege of Mumbai in late November, was the only known survivor of a group of gunmen said to have all come from Pakistan.

The attacks on luxury hotels, a rail station and a Jewish community center, killed more than 160 people and caused relations to deteriorate between India and Pakistan. India blames the terrorist organization Lashkar-e-Taiba, based in Pakistan.

Officials here have also questioned whether the attackers were trained by or had the support of people linked to Pakistan's military or intelligence agencies.

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