A Pakistani court conducting the trial of Lashkar-e-Tayiba operations chief Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other suspects in the Mumbai terror attack case on Saturday adjourned proceedings till May 22 after the prosecution sought more time to gain access to Ajmal Kasab, who was sentenced to death by an Indian court on Thursday.
Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan of the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court put off the case for two weeks after the prosecution filed an application, asking him not to proceed till Pakistani authorities gained access to Kasab and Fahim Ansari, an Indian national who was accused of involvement in the attacks, but acquitted by the anti-terror court in Mumbai. The prosecution said in its application that the Pakistan government had requested India to grant access to Kasab and Ansari.
It also said the arrest warrants issued for Kasab and Ansari by the anti-terrorism court had been provided to Indian authorities. The prosecution also asked the court to take action against Kasab and Ansari under Article 87 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. The article states that if a person against whom a warrant has been issued is absconding, the court can publish a written proclamation requiring him to appear at a specified place and time within 30 days.
Lawyers defending the seven suspects, including Lakhvi, filed an application in which they claimed that the government was resorting to various tactics to delay the trial. Among these tactics is seeking access to Kasab, the application contended. The application filed by the defence lawyers also noted that Kasab had been convicted and sentenced by a 'competent court' in India and could not be tried for the same offence under Pakistani laws.
Khwaja Sultan, the lawyer for Lakhvi, said that Article 403 of the Code of Criminal Procedure and Article 13 of the Pakistani Constitution clearly stated that a person could not be tried twice for the same offence. He said these provisions would apply to Kasab, who is a Pakistani national.
The trial of the Pakistani suspects, which got underway in April last year, has been mired in controversy and legal complications over the past few months. The defence lawyers have filed a series of cases challenging the trial. The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed by Lakhvi seeking his acquittal.
The apex court has sought a copy of Kasab's confessional statement and will take up the matter again on May 11. The seven suspects Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Younas Anjum, Abu al-Qama and Jamil Ahmed have been charged with planning and facilitating the attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people.