26/11 trial: New judge takes over in Pakistan

Updated - November 16, 2021 11:27 pm IST

Published - June 29, 2013 08:26 pm IST - Lahore

File photo of a policeman paying tribute to victims on the second anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, in front of the Taj Mahal hotel. Photo: Vivek Bendre

File photo of a policeman paying tribute to victims on the second anniversary of the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, in front of the Taj Mahal hotel. Photo: Vivek Bendre

A Pakistani court today summoned four witnesses for cross examination in the trial, scheduled for July 6, of seven Pakistanis, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks.

Judge Kausar Abbas Zaidi of the Anti-Terrorism Court, Islamabad, said he would hold the hearing next week, within closed doors, at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.

Since it was the first hearing of Judge Zaidi, who replaced Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman, he was briefed about the case by the defence lawyer Riaz Cheema.

Sources said the judge had refused to hold the hearing in Islamabad till the Nawaz Sharif government provided him ’foolproof security’ from his residence (Sialkot district) to court (Islamabad).

The case was shifted from an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi to a newly established one in Islamabad two weeks back.

Judge Zaidi summoned four private witnesses — Hamza Bin Tariq, Muhammad Ali, Mohammad Saifullah Khan and Umer Draz Khan — who belong to the port city of Karachi, for cross examination next Saturday, at the request of the defence.

In their testimony about three months back, the witnesses had told the judge that one of the seven accused — Shahid Jamil Riaz — and 10 other people had bought 11 inflatable boats for ‘fishing’ but ‘these persons never returned with any fish.’

One of the witnesses said he had sold Riaz a Yamaha boat engine for Rs 1.6 lakh while another said he had sold him six pumps.

The witnesses also identified 10 men, including Amjad Khan and Atiqur Rehman, who were allegedly involved in planning and executing the Mumbai attacks on November 26, 2008 that left 166 people dead.

These 10 men were earlier declared “proclaimed offenders” or fugitives by the anti-terrorism court.

According to the prosecution, the 10 proclaimed offenders were either trainers or facilitators of the accused who launched the attacks in Mumbai.

One witness had told the court that Amjad Khan had obtained from him a “port clearance certificate” for ‘Al-Hussaini,’ a fishing boat used by the terrorists.

Amjad Khan was also involved in purchasing the inflatable boats.

Khan, the fugitive identified by the witnesses, is a shadowy LeT organiser and financier from Karachi who figured in a majority of dossiers provided to Pakistan by India.

He hails from Multan and played a key role in arranging and providing funds to the ten terrorists who attacked Mumbai.

The witnesses could not be cross examined because Khawaja Haris, Lakhvi’s counsel, was not present in the court in that hearing.

Later, prosecution chief Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali of the Federal Investigation Agency was assassinated by militants in Islamabad on May 3.

Judge Zaidi’s case hearing today has practically been the first since then.

The judge expressed his annoyance on the absence of prosecution lawyer Chaudhry Azhar and asked why the government had not yet appointed a new prosecution chief.

Mr. Azhar is also reportedly facing security issues. He had also demanded the government provide him ‘’foolproof security’’ after the assassination of Mr. Zulifqar Ali.

Judge Zaidi’s court was established recently to hear a case filed against former President Pervez Musharraf under the Anti-Terrorism Act.

Till then, Islamabad had no anti-terrorism court and all terrorism cases were heard by courts in Rawalpindi.

The Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court had been handling the Mumbai attacks case since 2009 though the judge has been changed five times.

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