The Islamabad High Court (IHC) directed the anti-terrorism court (ATC) on Monday to wrap up the trial of the alleged mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai siege within two months and subsequently submit a report before the court.
While hearing the Federal Investigation Agency’s (FIA) plea for cancellation of the bail granted to Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the court allowed the agency to examine 22 more witnesses of its choice within the stipulated time.
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Shaukat Siddiqui, instructed the FIA and the defence counsels to abstain from any unnecessary adjournments. The court laid down the condition that any further adjournments by either party would go in favour of the opposite party.
The ATC had earlier granted bail to the Jamatud Dawa (JuD) leader on December 18.
On the same day the federal government ordered his detention under the Maintenance of Public Order. When the IHC suspended on December 29 the detention order, Lakhvi was rearrested in an over six-and-a-half-year-old kidnapping case.
In the appeal filed by the FIA against the ATC judge’s order of granting bail to Lakhvi, FIA Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Muhammad Azhar said that the FIA intended to examine 22 more witnesses in the case, as previous evidence was not appreciated by the trial court.
Some 52 witnesses out of a total of 156 have so far been examined by the trial court.
The bench asked the FIA prosecutor what material the prosecution had and how much time was needed to examine the remaining witnesses, to which the prosecutor requested two months.
The bench asked the prosecutor to name any of the 52 witnesses who directly implicated Lakhvi in the case being discussed. “He has been given bail after six years. Convince this court through weighty evidence that his bail should be cancelled,” the bench said.
In reply, the special prosecutor told the court that the trial has not been delayed because of the prosecution but because of multiple applications filed by the defence counsel. He added that the defence took 57 adjournments while prosecution took only 18 adjournments in the case so far. “Defence did not allow to continue the case,” he said.
“How is it direct evidence?” the bench counter questioned, adding that the prosecution was bound to present relevant evidence that it was relying upon before the court as it was not a review petition, it was an appeal for the cancellation of bail.
After repeated requests to the prosecution to prove that the evidence was important enough for cancellation of bail, Justice Qureshi put forward the proposal that the case would now be pending and during this time, 22 witnesses of the prosecutor’s choice can be examined but the process was needed to be completed within two months.
Both the parties agreed to the proposal. The IHC bench adjourned the matter for two months.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 14th, 2015.
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