A Pakistani anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks reserved till Monday, its decision on a bail petition filed by Lashkar-e-Tayiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
Defence and prosecution lawyers had presented their arguments on the bail application during two previous hearings and Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, who was conducting the trial within Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail for security reasons, heard the final arguments on Saturday. Judge Awan then reserved his decision on the bail application till Monday, defence lawyers said.
In his petition, Lakhvi has said that he should be freed on bail as prosecutors had been unable to present any "solid evidence" linking him to the 2008 Mumbai attacks during the nearly 20 months that he has been in jail. Judge Awan scheduled the next hearing of the case for September 18 after hearing arguments by the prosecution and defence on two other issues -- the prosecution's application seeking voice samples of the seven accused and another application for an Indian magistrate and police official to testify via video conferencing. The defence lawyers opposed both applications, saying they were not allowed by existing Pakistani laws. "Under the laws, the application seeking voice samples is technically wrong as it is the right of the accused, and not the prosecution, to seek voice samples," Shahbaz Rajput, one of the defence lawyers, told PTI.
The defence objected to the prosecution's application for Indian officials to testify via video conferencing as this too is not allowed by Pakistani laws. "The laws on this issue are not developed in Pakistan. Existing laws cover video conferencing between Pakistani courts and jails and not institutions or persons in foreign countries," said Rajput.
The defence also questioned the authenticity of voice samples of persons involved in the attacks provided by India, saying such material could be taken up by the anti-terrorism court only after a "recovery memo" was submitted by authorities. Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit recently said Pakistan is yet to decide on India's proposal to have Indian officials testify by video-conferencing in the trial.
India has turned down Pakistan's request to send a magistrate and a police official who recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Mumbai attacker, to testify in the Pakistani court. Instead, India said the magistrate and the police official could depose via video-conferencing. Basit said the Indian proposal was being considered.
The trial of the seven Pakistani suspects, charged with planning and facilitating the attacks that killed 166 people, has been marred by procedural delays and controversy. Only two out of over 150 prosecution witnesses have testified so far. The Pakistani prosecution's case is largely built on the confessional statement of Kasab, who has already been convicted and sentenced to death by a special court in Mumbai.