The trial of LeT’s operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six others charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks was on Saturday adjourned for a week in a Pakistani anti-terrorism court as the judge was on leave.
Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan of the anti-terrorism court, who is conducting the trial within Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail due to security concerns, was on leave for unspecified reasons, two defence lawyers and Special Public Prosecutor Malik Rabnawaz Noon told PTI.
The trial had been put off till April 24, they said.
The trial of the seven suspects — Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Abu al-Qama, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum — began almost a year ago but has been mired in controversy and delays over the past few months.
The proceedings of the anti-terrorism court have been affected by several recent rulings by the Lahore High Court, where the defence lawyers had filed a slew of petitions seeking the acquittal of the suspects.
In an order issued on March 9, the Lahore High Court said the confession of Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone attacker arrested alive by Indian authorities during the 2008 Mumbai attacks, could not be used against the accused in Pakistan.
It also ruled that the trial of Kasab and Fahim Ansari, another suspect arrested by Indian authorities, could not be separated from the trial of the seven Pakistani suspects.
Subsequently, Lakhvi filed another petition in the Supreme Court seeking his acquittal.
Lakhvi contended in his petition that the prosecution had no evidence against him besides Kasab’s confession, which the LeT commander pointed out had been retracted.
On the other hand, the prosecution has filed a petition in the Lahore High Court to challenge the anti-terrorism court’s decision not to declare Kasab and Ansari as “proclaimed offenders” or fugitives.
Members of the prosecution team say it is necessary for Kasab to be declared a fugitive so that his confession can be used in a Pakistani court.
The seven Pakistani suspects have been booked under the Pakistan Penal Code, Anti-Terrorism Act and a cyber crimes law.
They have been charged with planning and facilitating the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.