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Smiling Kasab demands Pakistani lawyer

April 15, 2009 18:48 IST

He is the sole surviving terrorist of the 26/11 terror attacks on Mumbai, but one glance at him and you might assume that Ajmal Mohammad Aamir Kasab is merely a college-going youngster, not a terrorist who shot scores of innocent people on November 26 last year.

This is the first time that the media got a glimpse of Kasab, 21, at the specially-constructed court in the high-security Arthur Road Jail on Wednesday.

Kasab is barely five feet tall and sports a thin beard and moustache. Dressed in a T-shirt and pyjama, Kasab was bare-foot when he was produced in court. His face was covered with a white cloth.  

The cloth was removed when Kasab, a resident of Faridkot in Pakistan, was brought before Judge M L Tahiliani.

Kasab didn't look the least bit perturbed or afraid of the proceedings. He glanced around the courtroom and smiled at anybody willing to make eye contact with him.

He was then made to sit next to the other 26/11 accused Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmad Shaikh.

Ansari and Sabauddin, both alleged Lashkar-e-Tayiba operatives, have been charged with conducting reconnaissance of various locations in Mumbai and passing them onto their leaders in the terror outfit based in Pakistan. The LeT leaders then identified the targets for the attack and sent ten well-armed and trained terrorists to carry them out.

Kasab talked to Fahim a few times, in spite of Judge Tahiliani telling him not to talk to the co-accused. Fahim also signaled Kasab to stop by putting his finger on his lips, but the latter refused to stop. Finally, Fahim was told to shift and Sabauddin was made to sit next to Kasab.

Kasab then sat quietly, twirling his moustache and stroking his thin beard.

When Judge Tahiliani told Kasab that Anjali Waghmare will no longer represent him and he will get a new lawyer; Kasab intervened to say that he needed a Pakistani lawyer.

Judge Tahiliani replied, "This is not possible. India's law does not permit it. Moreover, we conveyed your message to the Pakistani authorities but there was no response from the Pakistan government. I am not going to wait for the Pakistan government's decision."

He further observed, "We need to give a fair trial to accused no.1 Kasab. It is vital that a lawyer be appointed who can handle a case of this magnitude properly and with due diligence."

Judge Tahiliani assured Kasab, "We will help you legally in whatever way we can."

Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam told the court, "Fortunately or unfortunately, he cannot get one (Pakistani lawyer) because there is no reply from the Pakistan government and there is no communication from them."

When Kasab urged the court to "try once more", the judge conceded, "Okay, we will try again." He then asked Nikam to follow up on the matter.

Kasab also requested that he be allowed to read newspapers, but Nikam retorted, "You can buy a newspaper with your own money."

"How can he have his own money?" queried Judge Tahiliani.

Kasab intervened to say, "When I was arrested, I had lots of money, which the police seized and didn't give back."

"You cannot touch that money because the police have seized it," the judge replied.

Judge Tahiliani concluded the session by asking Kasab to be present in court the next day, so that he can get a new lawyer.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai