26/11: Pak court refuses to record prosecution witness
Islamabad: A Pakistani court conducting the trial of seven terror suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks on Saturday did not record the statements of two prosecution witnesses after defence lawyers raised legal objections to their testimony.
During today's hearing held behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, two officials of the Federal Investigation Agency were scheduled to record their statements regarding voice communication intercepts and transcripts of conversations between the attackers and their Pakistan-based handlers, sources said.
However, Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman accepted arguments by defence lawyers that the statements of the two FIA officials should not be recorded as the anti-terrorism court had already rejected the report prepared by a Pakistani judicial commission that visited Mumbai to probe the attacks.
Since the court had rejected the commission's report containing material provided by Indian authorities, the testimony of the FIA officials based on material provided by India too had no legal value, the defence lawyers were quoted as saying by sources.
Judge Rehman pointed out that the Pakistani commission that went to India had not been allowed to cross-examine four key Indian witnesses.
The judge said the issue of cross-examining the Indian witnesses needs to be resolved before the statements of the two FIA officials could be recorded as their testimony is linked to that of the witnesses in India.
At the last hearing on July 21, the judge had directed prosecutors to ascertain from the Indian government if it is ready to allow the cross-examination of the Indian witnesses.
Judge Rehman also summoned five more prosecution witnesses to record their statements at the next hearing on August 04.
Sources said these witnesses would provide details of the investigations conducted in Pakistan after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
On July 17, the court had declared illegal the findings of the commission constituted to record the testimonies of witnesses in India.
The court's decision was based on arguments by defence lawyers, who said they had not been allowed to cross-examine the Indian witnesses during a visit to Mumbai in March.
The court further ruled that the testimony of the Indian witnesses could be used by the FIA only if Indian authorities gave the right of cross-examination to the defence lawyers.
The seven suspects, including Lashkar-e-Toiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people in November 2008.
Their trial has been hit by countless delays and the judge has been changed five times.