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HindustanTimes Sun,20 Apr 2014

26/11 attacks: Pak lawyer says documents inadmissible, accused may walk free

Imtiaz Ahmad, Hindustan Times  Islamabad, November 25, 2013
First Published: 13:26 IST(25/11/2013) | Last Updated: 10:11 IST(26/11/2013)

The seven members of the Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) undergoing trial in Pakistan for the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks may be let off on technical grounds, says a former defence attorney in the case.

Lawyer Riaz Akram Cheema, who has now dissociated himself from the case citing “personal reasons”, has said the dossier provided by the Indian authorities in the case does not qualify as “admissible evidence.”

Cheema was part of a Pakistani judicial commission that visited India in September to cross-examine witnesses in the case and collect other evidence.

The commission recently submitted the dossier to the anti-terrorism court (ATC) here, but it is yet to be examined by the court and cross-examined by the defence lawyers.

Cheema told a local newspaper here that the dossier was inadmissible under several sections of Pakistani law.

The lawyer said he had cross-examined the chief investigating officer (IO) as well as doctors who had conducted autopsies on the bodies of terrorist Ajmal Kasab’s nine accomplices killed in the attack.

“Not a single statement of witnesses was personally recorded by the IO. He possessed only photocopies of the documents,” Cheema said.

He said the IO had not written even a single “misal” (legal document against the accused) with his own hands.

Cheema also claimed that the CDs provided by the Indian authorities as evidence were not originals.

“Out of the record of 280 calls they provided as evidence against the co-accused, none was made to or from Kasab,” he said.

Cheema had separated himself from the case on Saturday, while another defence lawyer Khwaja Haris Ahmad had earlier quit the case.

For the past five years, Pakistan has been unable to take the case forward.

The case is still at the evidence stage, and has seen a change of judges, changes in the defence panel and the murder of special prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar – who was gunned down in broad daylight at Islamabad earlier this year.

Despite repeated directions by the ATC, the prosecution has failed to compile and provide the complete list of witnesses they want cross-examined.

So far, the prosecution has only managed to get 17 of the 137 witnesses cross-examined, the defence claims.

The prosecution is in the hands of Chaudhry Azhar, special prosecutor of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA). The Asif Zardari government had entrusted the task of prosecution to the FIA instead of police.

The FIA has carried out investigations that led to the arrest of the LeT militants, but not much progress has been made since then.

Earlier this month, Azhar had told the media that he was hopeful about the new dossier and that the case was heading towards “a decisive moment”.

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