The alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on Saturday challenged India’s refusal to allow Pakistani lawyers to cross-examine Indian witnesses in the case.
An eight-member commission comprising defence lawyers, prosecutors and a court official was allowed to travel to India on March 15 to gather evidences for the prosecution of seven suspects linked to the 2008 Mumbai attacks. However, the defence lawyers were barred from cross-examining the four prosecution witnesses in the case. The counsel for the commander of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, who is also accused in the case, Khawaja Haris Ahmed told the Anti-Terrorism Court – 1 (ATC-I).
ATC-I Special Judge Shahid Rafique adjourned the case hearing till May 5.
Lakhvi’s counsel argued that under international laws they have the right to question witnesses in the case, which include Chief Investigation Officer Mumbai Ramash Mahale; Rama Vijay Sawanth, the magistrate who recorded the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab (the only attacker captured alive by the police); and Dr Shaliesh Mohiti and Dr Ganash Dhondiraj, who conducted post-mortems of 166 people killed in the attack.
However, Ahmed maintained that the Indian Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, who was deputed to facilitate the Pakistani judicial commission, stopped the defence lawyers from questioning the witnesses. Nikam had claimed that both the governments had already agreed in November 2010 that no cross-examination of witnesses will be carried out by Pakistani lawyers, said Ahmed.
“In the eye of law, the proceedings and recording of the statements of the Indian prosecution witnesses without examination by Pakistani lawyers had no legal bearing in Pakistan’s trial court,” Lakhvi’s counsel argued. He said that both Indian and Pakistani prosecution had not submitted any such agreement, adding that if such an agreement existed it holds no legal value, as the defence counsel cannot be deprived from the right to cross-examination.
The defence counsel urged on the court not to admit the statements of the Indian witnesses review records.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 29th, 2012.