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Homeland Security

Lawyer of accused Mumbai terrorist dismissed as trial opens

RIA Novosti

15/04/2009 14:18 NEW DELHI, April 15 (RIA Novosti) - An Indian court removed on Wednesday the lawyer of the sole suspect captured alive during last November's terrorist attack in Mumbai, Indian media reported.

A member of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist organization, 21-year-old Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, is accused of being one of the 10 terrorists who killed 174 people, including more than 20 foreigners, over three days in Mumbai.

The men armed with submachine guns and grenades swept through India's commercial capital on November 26, attacking hotels, the railway station, a cinema, and a hospital.

As the trial began, the judge dismissed defense lawyer Anjali Waghmare, who was also representing the interests of one of the witnesses in a compensation claim case. She was dismissed on the grounds that she failed to inform the court about the possible conflict of interests.

Her assistant does not have the qualifications to serve as a defense attorney and the hearings have been suspended until a new lawyer is appointed.

Qasab and his partner allegedly shot dead 58 people during an assault on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, the city's main train station.

He is one of 38 people charged in connection with the case. A total of 12 charges have been filed against him, including murder and waging war against India. Qasab, who was dubbed "the baby-faced killer," faces death by hanging if found guilty.

Two Indian residents, Fahim Ansari and Sabahuddin Mohammed, were also in the court on Wednesday. The two Lashkar-e-Taiba activists are accused of conducting reconnaissance for the perpetrators of the terror strike.

The high-profile trial started amid unprecedented security measures in the Mumbai's Arthur Road Jail.

A special courtroom, enclosed in a 50-foot-tall cage of steel and concrete able to withstand a rocket attack, was constructed inside the jail. During the hearings, Qasab was to be held in a bulletproof cell. A six-meter (20-foot) bullet-, chemical- and bomb-proof corridor was made to take the suspect from his jail cell to the courtroom, with CCTV cameras positioned along the route.

Media access to the courtroom is tightly controlled, with only 60 reporters given special bar-coded passes to the trial. They were fingerprinted and underwent comprehensive checks by the Mumbai police to make sure they had no criminal record.

Over 2,200 witnesses have been identified in the case, but it is unclear how many will be summoned to testify in court.

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