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New Judge Hears Afresh 26/11 Arguments In Pak

PTI 05 Dec 2010, 9:19:12 IST
A Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks on Saturday heard fresh arguments by the prosecution and defence lawyers on the government's proposal to send a commission to India to interview key witnesses.

Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed of the Rawalpindi-based court, who took over the case last month, had decided that he would hear afresh the arguments by the prosecution and defence on the government's petition to send the commission to India to question witnesses like Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving attacker.

During Saturday's in-camera hearing, the prosecution told the judge it was imperative for the commission to visit India and interview the witnesses in order to take forward the proceedings.

Defence lawyers opposed the move, saying there was no provision in Pakistani laws for constituting such a commission, sources told PTI.

The arguments remained inconclusive and would be taken up at the next hearing scheduled for December 18.

In another significant development, the prosecution team submitted a statement to the judge that said it would withdraw a petition it had filed in the Lahorehigh court to challenge the anti-terrorism court's decision not to declare Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari as proclaimed offenders.

The prosecution team had approached the HC earlier this year after the anti-terrorism court rejected its petition for Kasab and Ansari to be declared proclaimed offenders or fugitives.

Sources said the prosecution had decided to withdraw the petition in the HC as it was perceived to be holding up proceedings in the anti-terrorism court.

Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a special court in India for his role in the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008. The same court acquitted Ansari, an Indian national, though he continues to be in custody in connection with other cases.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik said earlier this year that the trial of the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Tayiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had stalled and it was imperative for a commission to visit India and record the testimony of key witnesses.

However, lawyers defending the suspects have refused to join the commission. The trial of the Pakistani suspects has been mired in controversy and delays since last year.