Lawyers defending seven suspects arrested for alleged involvement in the Mumbai attacks on Monday demanded that Ajmal Amir Kasab, the lone attacker nabbed in India, should be brought to Pakistan to face trial with the other accused.
The lawyers made the demand when proceedings resumed in the trial of the seven accused, including Lashker-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, at the high- security Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi.
They said that since Kasab was the lone surviving attacker and his confession to Indian authorities formed a crucial part of the case built up by Pakistani authorities against their clients, he should be brought to Pakistan to face trial.
Anti-terrorism court Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, who is conducting the trial in the prison for security reasons, adjourned the matter till November 25 after hearing the arguments of the defence and the prosecution. He is expected to give his response to the demand of the defence lawyers at the next hearing.
Khwaja Sultan, the lawyer representing Lakhvi, said the defence counsel had raised objections to the evidence presented against the accused and thoroughly debated Kasab's confessional statement, which formed a crucial part of the case built up by the prosecution.
"What value does Kasab's statement have since he himself had retracted it? The Indian magistrate and police officers who were involved in recording the statement are not in Pakistan so that they can be cross-examined. So how can the statement be used in Pakistan?" Sultan told PTI.
"All the information in the prosecution's case is derived from that statement and the other attackers involved in the Mumbai incident are dead. So we said the Pakistan government should ask the Indian government to hand over Kasab so that he can be tried as a co-accused," he said.
The defence lawyers also claimed the evidence against their clients was fabricated and questioned the probe conducted by the Federal Investigation Agency into Pakistani links to the Mumbai attacks.
"We have set the ball rolling. Let us see what happens," Sultan said.
The anti-terror court is yet to formally indict the seven accused.
Judge Baqir Ali Rana, who was earlier conducting the trial, sought to indict the accused at a recent hearing but they refused to plead guilty or not guilty as their lawyers were not present at the time.
Sources said Judge Awan convened the proceedings at 8 am on Monday, saying he had to leave early as he had to attend a funeral.
However, Lakhvi and some other accused raised objections, saying their lawyers were not present. The judge then put off the proceedings till the afternoon.
There had been indications for some time that the defence lawyers planned to focus on Kasab's role in the Mumbai attacks and make a request for him to be brought to Pakistan.
Diplomatic sources have said they believe such a move could delay the trial, which is already mired in confusion and controversy.
The seven suspects Lakhvi, Zarar Shah, Abu al-Qama, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jamil Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum have been booked under the Anti-Terrorism Act.
They have been accused of training and providing financial support, accommodation, equipment and communications gear to the 10 terrorists who attacked Mumbai almost a year ago. PTI