26/11 trial in Pakistan adjourned again as lawyers skip proceedings

Islamabad:  An anti-terrorism court today adjourned the trial of seven Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks for three weeks after defence lawyers and prosecutors did not attend proceedings today, sources said.

Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman, who is conducting the trial in Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, put off the case till January 12 after Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulifqar Ali and lawyers defending the suspects did not attend the proceedings due to various reasons, sources told PTI.

The Special Prosecutor had to attend a funeral while the reasons for the absence of the defence lawyers could not immediately be ascertained.

Officials of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) and intelligence agencies had testified during recent hearings about the training of the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai in Lashkar-e-Taiba camps in Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa provinces.

The officials also provided to the court the evidence that had been gathered from these camps.

Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the attacks was hanged in a Pune jail last month.

A team of Indian legal experts is currently visiting Islamabad to finalise the terms of reference of a judicial commission that is expected to visit India next year to gather evidence on the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistani authorities decided to send the panel to Mumbai as the findings of another judicial commission were rejected by an anti-terrorism court as its members were not allowed to cross-examine four key Indian witnesses.

The seven suspects, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.

Their trial has made little or no headway for months due to various technical and legal issues.

The Lahore High Court has barred the anti-terrorism court from using Kasab's confession while defence lawyers have contended that existing Pakistani laws do not allow witnesses in another country to depose via video conferencing.

In a related development, the judge today issued a notice to the FIA, asking it to respond at the next hearing to an application filed by defence lawyers seeking the end of in-camera proceedings.

Defence lawyer Riaz Cheema said in the application that the court should either fully implement its order of September 2009 to ensure in-camera proceedings or allow the media to cover the proceedings to avoid "misreporting".

Cheema claimed the image of his clients and Pakistan was being tarnished because of misreporting, especially by the Pakistani media.

"Allow the media in during the proceedings so that true reporting is ensured in the press," he said.

Acting on an application from the FIA, the court had earlier issued an order that the proceedings would be held behind closed doors.


Story First Published: December 22, 2012 14:22 IST

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