The lawyers of the seven accused arrested in connection with the 2008 terrorists attacks in Mumbai have blamed the Indian government for causing a delay in the trial against their clients.
Addressing a press conference at a local hotel on Saturday, Advocate Malik Muhammad Rafique said that if the Indian government accepted the demand by Pakistan to send 20 prosecution witnesses to a Pakistani court, the trial could be wrapped up in no time.
Speaking on behalf of the other defence lawyers, Advocate Rafique said that the layers unanimously agreed that India should stop piling pressure on Pakistani authorities for a speedy trial of the seven accused, who were arrested in January 2009.
He further said that the reason for the press conference was that as defence lawyers it was necessary for them to present the current status of the trial.
The lawyer added that the trial court had been waiting for the prosecution witnesses in the case, as India had turned down a request of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to send the witnesses to appear before the trial court.
Advocate Rafique further said that a request of the FIA to form a judicial commission that would go to India to record statements of the prosecution witnesses for the trial would not be suitable under Pakistani laws, which requires the judge to be present while witnesses record their statements.
He explained that only the competent court of law could determine the ‘demeanour ‘of the prosecution witnesses while recording their statements.
If the commission goes to India to record the statements of the witnesses, their value to the defence would be minimal and could create another legal lacuna in the case.
Similarly, the criminal evidence and statements of the witnesses obtained in India against Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving terrorist involved in the attack, could not be helpful for the FIA against the seven arrested men who belong to the banned Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, the lawyer said.
Denouncing the pressure by India for a speedy trial of the accused, the lawyer said that India should first produce the culprits in the case of the Samjotha Express incident which killed hundreds of innocent Pakistanis.
In response to a question, Advocate Rafique said they would seek the post-arrest bail of the seven accused in a stable condition as many trial judges who had been appointed to hear the case were transferred.
The hearing against the arrested accused Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, the alleged mastermind of the attacks, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Younas Anjum, Jamil Ahmed, Mazhar Iqbal and Abdul Majid was adjourned till June 25 in the absence of the trial judge who was transferred last Saturday.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 19th, 2011.