26/11 accused lawyers causing "hindrances" in trial: Pakistani prosecutor
Last Updated: Sunday, March 07, 2010, 20:13
Islamabad: Lawyers defending seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, accused of involvement in the Mumbai attacks are causing "unnecessary hindrances" in their trial by filing petitions in court, a Pakistani prosecutor has said.

"While these petitions have been dismissed by the court, time has been wasted. (Lakhvi's lawyer Khwaja) Sultan keeps filing applications only to get new hearing dates; he is creating unnecessary hindrances," said Malik Rab Nawaz Noon, the special public prosecutor hired by the government for the trial of suspects linked to the Mumbai incident.

Noon said it could take at least a year for the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi to decide the case but only if the defence lawyers and police cooperate in the proceedings.

"If all goes well and if the defence counsel, the witnesses and the police, all cooperate, it would take a minimum of one year for the court to decide the case," Noon told Herald magazine.

However, some lawyers said the recording of witnesses statements and evaluating evidence are extremely time-consuming even in a regular trial that proceeds at a normal pace.

In the Mumbai case, it could take up to three years to hear the witnesses and to record the evidence, they said.

"It doesn't matter how high profile the trial is, unless the court doesn't finish all the formalities such as verifying the evidences produced by the prosecution, it cannot give a judgement against any one," said Afshan Ghazanfar, a Supreme Court lawyer.

The trial of the seven suspects is being conducted in the heavily guarded Adiala Jail for security reasons.The trial has been mired by controversies and delays since last year.

The judge was changed twice and Lakhvi’s counsel has filed at least seven petitions seeking his acquittal, challenging the case prepared by the prosecution team and asking for the transfer of the trial from Rawalpindi to Lahore.

The Herald quoted unnamed legal experts as saying that the reason the defence lawyers were "creating these interruptions is to buy time for the accused in the hope that the international interest in Lakhvi’s trial will wane, making an acquittal easier."

Most of the petitions filed by Lakhvi’s counsel have been dismissed by courts, including the Lahore High Court.

The report said another reason for the long-drawn trial is the "inexplicable delay in recording the statements of 160 witnesses" listed by the defence and prosecution.

It quoted an unnamed lawyer as saying that this is due to the defence counsel’s "continuous applications that hinder the normal hearing of the case."

The anti-terror court has so far recorded the testimony of only two witnesses, including a Federal Investigation Agency official who deposed before Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan yesterday.


First Published: Sunday, March 07, 2010, 20:13

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