The trial of the lone surviving gunman of the November 2008 massacre in Mumbai has been suspended after the Indian lawyer appointed to defend him was dismissed by the special court on the first day of trial, according to media reports.
The court judge ruled on Wednesday that Anjali Waghmare, the defense lawyer for Azam Amir Kasab, would be dismissed for a perceived conflict of interest.
Ms. Waghmare had previously represented a victim of the November terrorist attacks in court, in a case related to compensation claims. The victim could possibly serve as a witness in the case against Kasab. The judge, Mr. M.L. Tahilyani, told Ms. Waghmare that she should have informed the court that “you had already been appointed by the legal aid cell to appear for the witness in this case," according to the Press Trust of India.
This is the latest in a series of delays of the trial of the Pakistani suspect, who has had trouble finding a defense lawyer. The police have also reported trouble in finding enough security to control the courtroom for Kasab’s courtroom appearances.
Indian law guarantees that the accused may have a lawyer to defend him. However, almost all lawyers across India have almost united against acting as defense counsel for Kasab. A photo of Kasab confidently walking with his machine gun emerged as one of the most horrific photo icons of the massacre, and as the lone surviving attacker he has become the focus of India’s anger.
In December, the Mumbai Metropolitan Magistrate Court's Bar Association, representing over 1,000 lawyers, said that none of its members would act as a defense counsel for Kasab.
Police and the legal department have also had a difficult time ensuring Kasab’s safety. His trial is to be held in a special cage enclosed by a 50-foot tall steel-and-concrete structure in Arthur Road jail in Mumbai.
Kasab, with nine others, launched a series of bloody attacks in Mumbai on November 2008. The attacks resulted in 160 deaths and a three-day siege of some iconic hotels in Mumbai. The siege ended when Indian Special Forces commandos assaulted the buildings.
The attacks resulted in national outrage, with some calling it "India's 911," a reference to the September 11, 2001 terrorist actions on the United States.