Panel will record the statements of four witnesses in 26/11 terror attack
Members of a Pakistani judicial commission arrived here on Thursday afternoon to record the statements of four witnesses in the November 26, 2008 terror attacks in the city.
Earlier in the day, the commission's public prosecutors and Pakistan Home Ministry's senior officials had a three-hour closed-door meeting with Ujjwal Nikam, Indian special public prosecutor in the case, and senior Indian officials in New Delhi.
Mr. Nikam met Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram and Home Secretary R.K. Singh after the meeting and apprised them about the proceedings.
“I categorically told them that the conspiracy was hatched on Pakistani soil and that India had finished the trial in the fastest possible time. They have said they will cooperate to bring the culprits to book,” Mr. Nikam told The Hindu.
Meanwhile, official sources told The Hindu that New Delhi had extended full cooperation to the judicial commission and that it was now Pakistan's turn to reciprocate and take the trial ahead for punishing the perpetrators of the crime.
Mr. Nikam said the court proceedings, which were to begin on Friday at the Esplanade court here, will start with the recording of the statement of Metropolitan Magistrate R.V. Sawant Waghule.
“We will start recording the statements from tomorrow [Friday],” Zulfikar Ahmed, press secretary accompanying the eight-member commission, told The Hindu.
The commission will record the statements of four witnesses, including Mr. Waghule, who recorded the statement of the lone surviving terrorist, Ajmal Amir Kasab; chief investigating officer of the case Ramesh Mahale and two doctors from the state-run Nair Hospital and J.J. Hospital who had conducted the autopsies of nine terrorists and had examined the wounds of Kasab.
The commission members will not be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses.
Z+ security cover
Soon after the team — 8 judicial commission members and 3 Pakistan Embassy officials — arrived, it was immediately taken to a five-star hotel in a heavily guarded motorcade. Police officials said the delegation was provided with Z+ security cover.
The commission comprises four defense lawyers: Khwaja Haris, Riyaz Akram Choudhary, Fakhar Haayat and Raja Ehassan Ulhakhan; two public prosecutors: Choudhary Mohammed Azhar and Choudhary Ali; one member from the joint investigation team Azad Khan and one court official named Hameed.
“We are here to fulfil the legal requirements of the trial of the perpetrators of the Mumbai terror attacks,” Mr. Ahmed said.
Media kept at bay
The media was not allowed to interact with any of the judicial commission members and the venue of their stay was kept a secret till the last moment.
Security in the Marine Drive area, especially around the five-star hotel, has been beefed up, sources said.