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Another roadblock in 26/11 trial in view as Lakhvi challenges Pak probe panel

world Updated: Sep 21, 2016 19:39 IST
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Zaki-ur-Rahman Lakhvi, the suspected mastermind of the Mumbai terror attacks in 2008, raises his fist after his court appearance in Islamabad, Pakistan. (AP File Photo)

The 2008 Mumbai attack mastermind Zaki-ur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects have challenged the legality of a Pakistani judicial commission that travelled to India in 2013 to probe the 2008 attack, which could further delay the case proceedings.

Lakhvi’s counsel Raja Rizwan Abbasi on Wednesday said the defence lawyers on Monday challenged the proceedings of the judicial commission that travelled to Mumbai to record the statements of four Indian prosecution witnesses in the Islamabad high court.

When asked had not the trial court already declared the commission’s proceedings ‘null and void’, Abbasi told PTI: “No... the trial court had not declared the commission’s proceedings null and void and we have challenged the legality of the commission in the IHC early this week.”

Earlier, the defence lawyer had challenged the legality of the commission before the trial court in 2013 but it was dismissed.

A Pakistani panel comprising special prosecutors and the defence counsel in 2013 had visited Mumbai to record the statements from prosecution witnesses, including magistrate R V Sawant Waghule, who recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab; Ramesh Mahale, the chief investigation officer of the case, and Ganesh Dhunraj and Chintaman Mohite, the two doctors who had conducted the post-mortem of the terrorists killed during the attack.

The commission in 2012 had recorded the statement of these witnesses but due to an “official understanding” between the Pakistani and Indian governments, had not cross-examined them.

Lakhvi’s lawyer has filed a plea the commission that went to India had not been allowed to cross-examine four key Indian witnesses.

A prosecution lawyer said the defence lawyers challenging the legality of the commission and saying it was not allowed to cross-examine the key Indian witnesses was aimed at delaying the case further.

He said this is evident from the fact that the legality of the commission is being challenged over three years after it had travelled to Mumbai.

“As the case is already not heading further because India has yet to decide whether to send 24 witnesses to Pakistan to record their statement the defence lawyers challenging the Pakistani commission’s proceedings in the IHC may further delay it,” he said.

The court has not fixed the date of hearing.

LeT operations commander Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younis Anjum are accused of abetment to murder, attempted murder, planning and executing the Mumbai attack that killed 166 people in November, 2008.

Lakhvi, believed to be the mastermind of the Mumbai attack, is living in undisclosed location after being released from jail on bail a year ago. The other six suspects are in Adiala Jail Rawalpindi. The case has been underway in the country for more than six years.