Pakistani judicial panel to visit Mumbai in September
Islamabad/Lahore: An eight-member Pakistani judicial commission will visit India from September 7 to cross-examine witnesses of the Mumbai terror attacks in order to take forward the prosecution of seven suspects.
Prosecutors today informed an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad conducting the trial of the seven suspects that an Indian government letter dated August 23 had stated that the Pakistani judicial commission could visit Mumbai during September 5-6.
But Riaz Akram Cheema, part of the team defending the accused, told PTI that the commission cannot travel on the dates given by Indian government as there is no flight to India during this period.
"The commission will leave on September 7 for Delhi and it will need at least four days to cross-examine the four witnesses (in Mumbai)," Cheema said.
The letter mentioned that Mumbai`s Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate P Y Ladekar will coordinate with the Pakistani panel for the cross-examination of the witnesses.
The witnesses are the magistrate who recorded LeT member Ajmal Kasab`s confessional statement, the chief investigating officer and two doctors who conducted the autopsy of the terrorists who carried out the Mumbai attacks in November 2008.
This will be the commission`s second visit to India. A report submitted by the panel after its first visit in March 2012 was rejected by an anti-terrorism court as the commission`s members were not allowed to cross-examine witnesses.
The court was informed that the members of the commission are defence lawyers Khawaja Haris Ahmed, Riaz Akram Cheema, Fakhar Hayat Awan and Raja Ehsan Khan, prosecutors Hasnain Pirzada and M Azhar Chaudhry, Federal Investigation Agency Deputy Director Fakir Muhammad and Abdul Hameed, the record official of the court.
Judge Atiqur Rehman ordered the prosecution to get a gazette notification issued about the commission`s visit before the next hearing on September 3.
He directed the Pakistan government to inform its Indian counterpart about the schedule of the commission`s visit.
The hearing of the Mumbai case was held at the anti-terrorism court after a gap of over a month. The last hearing was held on July 22.
A new judge, Atiqur Rehman, heard the matter. The government also appointed a new chief prosecutor, Hasnain Pirzada, to replace Chaudhry Zulifqar Ali, who was assassinated by terrorists in Islamabad over three months ago.
Cheema criticised the long gap between hearings, saying this was probably the first time the trial has been adjourned for six weeks. He said an anti-terrorism court cannot put off any case for more than two weeks.
Seven terrorists, including Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people. Their trial has progressed at a snail`s pace.
India has sought an early conclusion of the trial. Pakistan has so far acknowledged that the conspiracy behind the attacks was hatched in the country.
The agreement on the second visit of the Pakistani judicial commission was finalised in Islamabad in December last year following several rounds of discussions on complex technical and legal issues between a visiting Indian delegation and Pakistani officials.
After the panel visits India and cross-examines the witnesses, Pakistan is expected to reciprocate by granting an Indian judicial commission access to Pakistani suspects.