Pak court formally charges 7 suspects on eve of 26/11 anniv

On the eve of the first anniversary of Mumbai attacks, a Pak anti-terrorism court formally charged seven suspects, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

Updated: Nov 25, 2009, 23:34 PM IST

Islamabad: On the eve of the first
anniversary of the Mumbai attacks, a Pakistani anti-terrorism
court on Wednesday formally charged seven suspects, including
Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, with planning
and helping execute the assault on India`s financial hub.

Anti-terrorism court Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, who
is conducting the trial at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi for
security reasons, framed the chargesheet against Lakhvi, Zarar
Shah, Abu al-Qama, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil
Ahmed and Younas Anjum.

The court also rejected bail pleas of some of the
accused.

The suspects protested as charges against them under the
Anti-Terrorism Act and Pakistan Penal Code were read out,
sources said. All seven pleaded not guilty, their lawyers
said.

Shahbaz Rajput, one of the defence lawyers, told PTI that
the accused had pleaded not guilty as "the charges against
them were not backed up by evidence".

The court declared 16 people, including crew members of
two boats that ferried the 10 attackers to Mumbai, as
"proclaimed offenders".

It also separated the case of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone
attacker captured by Indian authorities, from the other
accused.

Lakhvi and the six other suspects were charged with
providing accommodation and training facilities to the
attackers as they prepared for the assault, the sources said.

The accused were also charged with arranging
transportation, including boats and communication equipment,
including mobile phone sets and internet-based communication
gear, for the terrorists, the sources added.

The court scheduled the next hearing of the case for
December 5.

At the last hearing on Monday, defence lawyers had
contended that Kasab should be brought to Pakistan to face
trial with the other accused.

They had said that since Kasab is the lone surviving
attacker and his confession to Indian authorities formed a
crucial part of the case built by Pakistani authorities
against their clients, he should be brought to Pakistan to
face trial.

Reporters are barred from covering the in-camera
proceedings of the anti-terror court and there was no official
word on today`s proceedings.

The indictment of the suspects had been expected for some
time as the Federal Investigation Agency, which probed
Pakistani links to the attacks, had drawn up its first
chargesheet as far back as May.

Since then, the judge has been changed twice.

The trial also became mired in confusion and controversy
after the accused claimed the court had tried to indict them
in the absence of their lawyers.

They filed a petition in the Lahore High Court, which
said the anti-terror court could proceed with the indictment
only after addressing the grievances of the accused.

Kasab`s extradition
Pakistani authorities have no plans
to seek the extradition of Ajmal Amir Kasab, an anti-terror
court conducting the trial of seven accused has been informed.

The prosecution counsel told the anti-terror court in
Rawalpindi today that "the government of Pakistan has neither
requested India for Kasab`s extradition nor does it have any
such plan to so," defence lawyer Khwaja Sultan said today.

Sultan, a Lahore-based veteran lawyer who is representing
Lashker-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, had
demanded that Pakistan should seek Kasab`s extradition as his
confessional statement to Indian authorities was a major part
of the case built by Pakistani investigators.

The court also separated the case of Kasab from the seven
other accused.

However, Sultan claimed the court had applied "wrong
sections" of the law to separate Kasab`s case from that of the
other suspects.

He said the defence will approach the High Court to
challenge the separation of Kasab`s case and the framing of
the chargesheet against the accused on "weak grounds".

Nearly 180 people, including foreigners, were killed
during the three-day rampage in Mumbai by the terrorists, who
targeted two five-star hotels, a crowded railway station and a
Jewish centre.

PTI