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Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Wednesday, 15 April 2009 15:38 UK

Mumbai accused relaxed in court

By Prachi Pinglay
BBC News, Mumbai

A policeman patrols near the court in Mumbai on 15 April 2009
There was a strong security presence in and around the Mumbai court

Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab was brought into court with two other accused - Fahim Ansari and Sabauddin Ahmed - amid heavy security.

A small - almost tiny - man, with a beard and a thick mop of hair, the only surviving suspected gunman from last year's Mumbai attacks was dressed in a grey T-shirt and a dark coloured tracksuit with red stripes.

He greeted Judge ML Tahiliyani and smiled throughout the proceedings, which he sat through in a relaxed manner.

He observed some 70 reporters present with curiosity, made gestures to special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam and tried chatting with fellow accused Mr Ansari until he was told to keep quiet by the judge.

Mr Qasab spoke to the judge about his request for a Pakistani lawyer and the provision of newspapers in jail.

While the other two accused tried complaining to the judge about the police, Mr Qasab told the judge he had nothing to say.

He simply said in a calm voice: "If I have to tell you something, I will inform my lawyer."

As the packed court room watched his every reaction, Mr Qasab chatted to Mr Ansari. Eventually, the third accused, Mr Sabauddin, was made to sit between the two men.

High walls

After they were brought into the court from a side entry, the three accused were seated in a box guarded by armed security personnel.

Mumbai gunman, identified as Mohammed Ajmal Amir Qasab
Ajmal Amir Qasab is alleged to have opened fire on commuters

The high-security court was lined with personnel from the Mumbai police and Indo-Tibet Border Police.

The court building is surrounded by high walls topped with barbed wire. The surrounding area was cordoned off and no vehicles were allowed into the lane outside the court.

The journalists were allowed in only after being checked at least three times.

Mr Qasab watched in silence as his lawyer's appointment was revoked.

When that happened, he watched the flurry of activity as some journalists tried to leave the court room to report.

Lawyer requested

During the post-lunch session, the judge told Mr Qasab: "The appointment of Anjali Waghmare, your lawyer, has been cancelled as she had earlier represented a victim of the same incident.

Anjali Waghmare outside court, 15/04
The court replaced Anjali Waghmare over an apparent conflict of interest

"We will appoint another lawyer as soon as possible. The other lawyer, KP Pawar, will continue."

Mr Qasab stood up and asked the judge about engaging a Pakistani lawyer.

The judge told him: "A Pakistani lawyer cannot represent you as per Indian law. However, if Pakistan's government wants to engage a private Indian lawyer, they can do so."

The special public prosecutor then pointed out that there has been no communication from the Pakistani authorities.

Mr Qasab asked him to try again; Mr Nikam said that he would inform diplomatic channels and if they wished they could reciprocate.

However, it was made clear that the court would proceed with the appointment of an Indian legal aid lawyer.

Later, the accused were taken out and only after that were reporters allowed to leave.



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