World News

India appoints lawyer for accused Mumbai attacker

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India appointed Monday a lawyer to defend the man accused of being the lone surviving gunman in last year’s Mumbai attacks, a government lawyer said.

Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving member of the 10-man group which attacked several Mumbai landmarks, is seen at an undisclosed location under police custody in this undated video grab shown by CNN IBN Television channel since February 3, 2009. REUTERS/CNN IBN/Handout

Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, who police formally charged in February with “waging war” against India, accepted the court’s decision during a hearing by video link from the jail where he is being held in Mumbai, public prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam said.

“I accept your lawyer. It is fine by me,” Nikam, quoted Kasab as having said to the judge after he was offered a lawyer from a government panel.

Indian lawyers had refused to defend Kasab, forcing the court to appoint a lawyer on its own.

Kasab, who had grown a beard in prison, was wearing a black t-shirt and trousers during Monday’s hearing, Nikam said.

Police say Kasab was one of 10 gunmen who arrived in Mumbai by sea and rampaged through landmarks including five star hotels, the main train station and a Jewish center. The attackers killed 166 people in a three-day rampage.

“Can I get to read newspapers in jail,” Kasab asked the judge, according to Nikam.

“We will consider your case,” the judge replied, before adjourning the hearing till April 6.

The attacks on India’s financial hub sparked tensions between nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan.

New Delhi said state agencies in Pakistan were involved in the attacks and provided a dossier of what it said was evidence. Islamabad denied this and asked for more evidence.

Indian nationals Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin also appeared in court by video conference. They are accused of being members of the Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group and of scouting Mumbai landmarks before the attacks.

Reporting by Bappa Majumdar; Editing by Krittivas Mukherjee