A day before the first anniversary of the November last Mumbai attacks, an anti-terror court in Pakistan finally indicted seven men, including Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, operations commander of Laskhar-e-Taiba, for their suspected involvement in the attacks.
The long-awaited indictment on Wednesday paves the way for the trial of the seven men, which may begin on December 5, the date for which the next hearing has been fixed.
The seven, all in custody, are: Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, the “mastermind” of the attacks; Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, also of the LeT and described as a “facilitator and expert of computer networks;” Hamad Amin Sadiq, who is charged with “facilitating funds and hideouts” for the Mumbai attackers; Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama, described as a “handler;” Shahid Jamil Riaz, who is described both as a facilitator for funds, as well as a crew member of a boat used by the attackers; Jamil Ahmed, described as “facilitator;” and, Younus, also a “facilitator.”
The in camera proceedings in Anti-Terror Court 1 of Rawalpindi were held in the high-security Adiala Jail, and lasted a little under two hours.
Judge Malik Mohammed Akram Awan framed charges against the seven under the Anti-Terrorism Act, several sections of the Pakistan Penal Code, including Section 302 for murder and under the Explosives Act.
Plead not guilty
All the seven pleaded not guilty of the charges, including Shahid Jamil Riaz, who had earlier made a detailed confession about his part in the attacks before a judicial magistrate in Rawalpindi, where he was first produced after his arrest.
Earlier, the court rejected objections by defence lawyers raised by them at the last hearing over the admissibility of the confession of Ajmal Amir ‘Kasab’ as evidence. They had argued that as he was neither an accused in the case in Pakistan nor in the list of proclaimed offenders, his statement could not be used for the purpose of framing charges against the other accused.
Lakhvi’s defence lawyer Khwaja Sultan Ahmed asked the court to “procure [Kasab’s] attendance” in the Pakistani trial court through extradition. He also asked the court to leave out his statement for framing the charges, as a statement by a person implicating another was admissible only if they were standing trial in the same court.
While holding that ‘Kasab’ could not be declared a proclaimed offender as his whereabouts were known, the Judge Awan said he would be treated as an accused whose case had been separated from the case under trial in his court, and who was being proceeded against in another court.
But the defence lawyers are said to have remained unconvinced and are expected to move objections to the court’s decision at the next hearing.