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Pakistan: 26/11 trial adjourned till Oct 31

By Rezaul H Laskar
October 26, 2009 16:05 IST
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The new Pakistani judge, hearing the Mumbai terror attacks case, on Monday adjourned till October 31 the trial of the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Tayiba operative Zakiur Lakhvi.

Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan of the anti-terror court, who was appointed last week to conduct the in-camera trial, began hearing the case today morning at the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

Awan replaced Judge Baqir Ali Rana, who had requested to be taken off the case for security reasons.

Shahbaz Rajput, a lawyer representing some of the accused, said Judge Awan had adjourned the case till October 31 at the conclusion of today's proceedings. He did not give details of the hearing as the court has imposed a gag order on the accused and lawyers.

However, sources said that the suspects again refused to accept their indictment at an earlier hearing, saying it was done in the absence of their lawyers.

Judge Awan warned the suspects that he would begin recording the testimony of witnesses at the next hearing, regardless of their decision not to accept the chargesheet, the sources said.

Meanwhile, the four defence lawyers today filed a petition, challenging the indictment of the suspects in the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court.

The high court accepted the petition and a two-member bench has been formed to hear the matter on Tuesday.

Defence lawyer Khwaja Sultan said, "We submitted the petition to the high court because our clients were indicted in the absence of their lawyers. We were kept in the dark and not given a chance to present our views. We would like to know on what grounds our clients are being charged and we should be given a chance to have a say."

The Mumbai terror attacks trial in Pakistan has been mired in controversy and confusion over the past few weeks.

The court's gag order on lawyers and others connected with the case and a ban on media coverage of the legal proceedings has made it virtually impossible to ascertain even basic facts.

The defence lawyers had boycotted proceedings and accused Judge Rana, who was earlier hearing the matter, of indicting the suspects in their absence. The lawyers have also opposed the trial being conducted in-camera.

On the other hand, Judge Rana asked to be taken off the case due to security concerns.

Reports said he had received threats from the LeT because of the way the suspects were indicted. He was also reportedly unhappy about pressure from the government regarding the case.

The trial is being conducted in the heavily guarded Adiala Jail due to security concerns.

The seven suspects -- Lakhvi, Shah, Abu al-Qama, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum -- have been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

They have been accused of training and providing financial support, accommodation, equipment and communications gear to the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai in November last year.

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Rezaul H Laskar In Islamabad
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