26/11: Pak SC dismisses Lakhvi's acquittal plea



26/11: Pak SC dismisses Lakhvi`s acquittal plea Islamabad: Pakistan's Supreme Court Thursday dismissed LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi's petition seeking his acquittal in the Mumbai attacks case, saying it was not the proper forum at this stage to take up the matter which is yet to be decided by an anti-terrorism court.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry said Lakhvi could approach the higher courts after his case is decided by the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi.

It dismissed the petition of Lakhvi, the operations chief of LeT, after his counsel withdrew the plea.

Lakhvi and six other suspects are currently being tried by the anti-terrorism court on charges of planning and facilitating the Mumbai attacks.

Lakhvi had contended in his petition that the charges against him were based solely on the confession of Ajmal Kasab, the lone Pakistani terrorist arrested alive in India for the 2008 attacks, and that the prosecution had no other evidence.

He had sought his acquittal in the case in the anti-terrorism court and the termination of criminal proceedings against him.

Malik Rab Nawaz Noon, the senior advocate who represented the government in the Supreme Court, said: "Lakhvi's counsel argued that Kasab's confessional statement had no evidentiary value in Pakistan but the judges were not in agreement."

The government also withdrew a petition it had filed in the apex court to challenge Lakhvi's plea.

After Lakhvi filed his petition, the Supreme Court obtained a copy of Kasab's confessional statement to study it.

In his confessional statement, Kasab had named Lakhvi as the mastermind behind the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.

A special court in Mumbai recently convicted Kasab on charges of murder and waging war against India and sentenced him to death.

Lakhvi's counsel Khwaja Sultan said the apex court had acknowledged there were "sound technical arguments" in their petition.

However, the bench had ruled that the case should be decided by the anti-terrorism court and that the apex court was not the proper forum to take up the matter at this stage, he said.

The bench observed that Lakhvi could approach the higher courts once the anti-terrorism court gives its decision, Sultan said.

Sultan also said the curbs on media coverage of proceedings in the anti-terrorism court should be lifted.

"The curbs on media coverage are not good. The media should be allowed to cover the proceedings in the Rawalpindi court," he said.

He pointed out that India had allowed the coverage of Kasab's trial in a special court in Mumbai.

The anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi is conducting the trial of Lakhvi and the other suspects within Adiala Jail for security reasons and media is barred from the proceedings.

PTI