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26/11: Pak anti-terror court told to redress suspects' woes

By Rezaul H Laskar
October 27, 2009 16:42 IST
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A Pakistani anti-terror court conducting trial of seven suspects arrested for involvement in Mumbai attacks, including the Lashkar-e-Tayiba's operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, was directed on Tuesday by the Lahore High Court to take into account the views of the accused and redress their grievances.

The Rawalpindi-based bench of the Lahore High Court, which was hearing a petition filed by lawyers of the suspects challenging their indictment, said the anti-terror court should give the accused an opportunity to present their views. The bench comprising Justices Khwaja Imtiaz Ahmed and Nasir Saeed directed the anti-terror court not to proceed further with the case without redressing the grievances of the accused. The defence lawyers had claimed in the petition that the anti-terror court's move of indicting the suspects in the absence of their counsel was "illegal".

The high court bench responded to this contention by saying that there is no legal provision that requires the presence of lawyers during the indictment process. However, the bench decided in the spirit of justice that the anti-terror court should address the reservations of the suspects and their lawyers.

The High Court bench also disposed of the petition, which was filed on Monday by the defence lawyers. The lawyers had challenged the indictment of their clients by the anti-terror court on the ground that it was done in their absence. Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan of the anti-terror court, who was appointed last week to conduct the trial of the seven suspects, yesterday adjourned the case till October 31.

Awan is conducting the trial at the high-security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi and media is barred from reporting on the proceedings of the anti-terror court. During Monday's hearing in the anti-terror court, the suspects again refused to accept their indictment. The Mumbai attacks case has become mired in controversy and confusion over the past few weeks. The court's gag order on lawyers and others connected with the case and the ban on media coverage has made it virtually impossible to ascertain even basic facts.

The seven suspects--Lakhvi, Zarar 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 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai on November 26, 2008.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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