Ajmal Kasab trial to continue

Terrorists lawyer Abbas Kazmi upset, seeks to withdraw from the case

Ajmal Kasab trial to continue

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab
The ongoing 26/11 terror attacks trial against the lone captured Pakistani terrorist Mohammed Ajmal Kasab will continue, notwithstanding his pleading guilty in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) massacre and a few other charges.

Special court judge M L Tahilyani gave his order on Thursday, taking Kasab’s statement on record and at the same time granting the prosecution’s request to allow it to depose all remaining witnesses, including those from the FBI and the Israeli investigators, who helped nail the involvement of Pakistani terror outfit Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) beyond doubt.

The judge said Kasab’s statement could be considered as an evidence at an appropriate stage.

Kasab had pleaded guilty on Monday to various charges out of the blue and admitted his guilt for participating in the massacre of innocent, helpless victims, including children at the CST. But he shifted the blame for other serious charges like murdering top police officers Hemant Karkare, Ashok Kamte, Vijay Salaskar as well as constable Tukaram Ombale, and the navigator of the hijacked an Indian fishing trawler, Amarsinh Solanki, to his slain accomplice Abu Ismail and other terrorists.

86 charges
The prosecution’s plea was that there were 86 different charges slapped on Kasab and it needed to examine witnesses and produce evidence to prove his guilt for those charges to which Kasab has not admitted his guilt. The court’s order was, therefore, hailed by the special public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam as a “vindication” of its stance in the matter.
So far, the prosecution has examined 134 witnesses and it is likely to depose 60-70 more witnesses within a month.

The judge, explaining his decision to Kasab, said, “Aap ke khilaaf 86 charges frame kiye the. Apne sab nahin kabule hain, lekin gunaah kabool kiya hai. Isiliye court ne decision liya hai ki yeh case chalega. (There were 86 charges framed against you. You have not pleaded guilty to all of them and only to the basic offence. That is why the court has taken the decision to continue with the trial).”

“Theek hai (all right),” was Kasab’s only reply, as he sat in the dock along with two Indian LeT operatives who too are facing trial with him. But the day was not without drama, as Kasab’s government-appointed defence lawyer Abbas Kazmi sought to withdraw from the case by stating that his client did not confide in him before confessing before the court.

On Wednesday, Kazmi told the court that Kasab had changed his plea from “not guilty” to “guilty” by making his sensational statement under duress, as he was physically and mentally tortured by the jail guards to confess his “guilt”. However, Kasab had immediately contradicted Kazmi, and told the court that he was not tortured by anybody, that there was no external pressure on him and that he made the admission voluntarily, without coercion.

Kazmi obviously felt stultified by Kasab’s contradicting him so openly in the court, and he did give vent to his emotions on Thursday.

The judge tried to pacify Kazmi and told him that it would be really inappropriate for him to withdraw at this stage, when the trial had progressed so far.

“My client has no confidence in me. He is not confiding in me. I think I should recuse myself from the case,” was Kazmi’s reply. The judge then asked Kasab whether he had no trust in his lawyer, to which he replied, “Aisi koi baat nahi hai (nothing of the sort)”.
The judge then asked Kasab to talk to his lawyer again and sort out any misunderstanding between them. “Gair zimmedarana harkat mat kare (Please don’t behave irresponsibly),” he told Kasab. Nikam interjected to say that Kazmi was playing a drama, but soon he realised the seriousness of the matter and offered to mediate between Kazmi and Kasab.

Nikam then talked to Kasab and asked whether he had confidence in his lawyer. Kasab replied in the affirmative. Nikam then requested Kazmi to accept Kasab’s expression of trust in him and continue with the trial. It was after Nikam’s intervention that Kazmi finally relented. Nikam later told media persons that this was not the first time that a public prosecutor had mediated between the accused in a case and his lawyer.

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