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Samjhauta blast case: NIA likely to drop 13 witnesses from Pak to speed trial

india Updated: Dec 24, 2017 22:43 IST
Rajesh Ahuja and Vivek Gupta
Rajesh Ahuja and Vivek Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi/Panchkula
Samjhauta blasts,NIA,Pakistani witnesses

More than 60 people, including 42 Pakistani passengers, were killed in the 2007 blast case in which several Hindu extremists, inlcuding Swami Aseemanand are facing trial. (HT File Photo)

The National Investigation Agency (NIA) intends to drop 13 Pakistani witnesses in the Samjhauta Express train blast case.

“We have not heard anything formally from the Pakistani side since the summons for appearance of the witnesses were issued through the ministry of external affairs. The court had in July given four months to secure their presence. Although no final decision has been taken, the NIA plans to request the designated court in Panchkula to drop these witnesses in order to not delay the trial any further,” a home ministry official told HT on the condition of anonymity.

Pakistan has repeatedly expressed “concern” over what it terms “unnecessary delay” in the Samjhauta case. But those who have followed the Pakistani tactics for long say the neighbouring country has never been interested in cooperating with India in legal matters.

“Pakistan rakes up the case time and again just to ward off New Delhi and international community’s pressure to bring terror fountainheads like Hafiz Mohammed Saeed and Maulana Masood Azhar to justice who have been involved in targeting Mumbai and the Pathankot airbase,” said Arun Chaudhary, who had a long stint with Intelligence Bureau before retiring as chief of Sashastra Seema Bal.

A total of 68 people, including 42 Pakistani passengers, were killed in the firebombing of Samjhauta Express that took place when the bi-weekly train, connecting Delhi and Attari at India-Pakistan border in Punjab, was crossing Panipat on the night of February 18, 2007.

Around half a dozen Hindu extremists, including Aseemanand, are facing trial in the case.

Sources said the testimony of Pakistani witnesses is important as they were travelling in the train at the time of the blast. After recording their initial statements with Haryana police, they were allowed to leave.

“These witnesses were served summons in March. They have twice – in July and November – failed to appear before the court. The report on the status of their arrival is awaited,” said NIA prosecutor RK Handa.

Sources said the NIA had considered recording the statements at Wagah in case they didn’t want to travel to Panchkula.

Out of 290 witnesses, 216 have deposed so far. Of these, around 30 witnesses turned hostile.The next hearing is on January 12.

First Published: Dec 24, 2017 22:40 IST