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U-turn by Pak prosecutors in 26/11 case

By M Zulqernain and Rezaul H Laskar
January 12, 2011 22:15 IST
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In yet another twist in the trial of seven Pakistani suspects linked to the Mumbai terror attacks, prosecutors have done a U-turn on a proposal to drop a legal move to get Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari declared as "proclaimed offenders" or fugitives.

The Federal Investigation Agency has decided to pursue a petition filed in the Lahore high court to challenge an anti-terrorism court's decision not to declare Kasab and Ansari as fugitives.

Prosecutors had recently told the anti-terrorism court, which is conducting the trial of the seven suspects, that they planned to withdraw the petition.

The high court will take up the FIA's petition on Thursday, an official in the prosecution team said.

"We have now decided not to withdraw the appeal," the official, who did not want to be named, told PTI.

Shahbaz Rajput, one of the defence lawyers, too said the prosecution team had backtracked from its earlier stance.

Legal experts said the surprise move would add to the complexity of the case against the seven Pakistani suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.

They said the proceedings in the anti-terrorism case were unlikely to move forward till the case in the Lahore high court is settled.

The FIA's petition asks the high court to declare Kasab and Ansari as proclaimed offenders, to issue non-bailable warrants for them and to de-link their case from that of the seven Pakistani suspects.

Kasab has been sentenced to death by a special court in Mumbai for his role in the attacks that killed 166 people. Ansari was acquitted by the same court but continues to be in custody for other cases.

The FIA contended in its petition that Kasab and Ansari should be declared proclaimed offenders as they were in the custody of Indian authorities and could not be brought to Pakistan.

The latest development reflects the confusion that has surrounded Pakistan's efforts to prosecute the suspects charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks.

Only one out of over 160 prosecution witnesses has testified so far and the anti-terrorism court's judge has been changed thrice.

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M Zulqernain and Rezaul H Laskar in Lahore