Pak court formally charges 7 suspects on eve of 26/11 anniv
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Last Updated: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 23:34
  
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


First Published: Wednesday, November 25, 2009, 23:34


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