Islamabad, Sep 17: The trial of seven Pakistanis, charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, hit a fresh blockade today after the judge hearing the case was transferred, resulting in no proceedings for the second consecutive week.
The case was being heard by Judge Shahid Rafique of anti-terrorism court number 3, who was the fifth judge to hear the case since proceedings began in early 2009. He was transferred to Rawalpindi from Gujranwala some time ago and had started hearing the case in July.
Judicial authorities today denotified the anti-terrorism court number 3 and sent Judge Rafique back to Gujranwala, sources told PTI.
The Mumbai attacks case was then moved to anti-terrorism court number 1, but the judge in that court, Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, was recently transferred, the sources said. Finally, the Mumbai attacks case was put up before the duty judge, Pervez Ali Shah, who adjourned it till September 24.
It could not immediately be ascertained whether a judge had been assigned to take up the case at the next hearing. In a related development, a petition filed by one of the suspects, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Judge Rafique is expected to be taken up by the Lahore High Court on Monday, defence lawyer Khwaja Sultan said.
Lakhvi's lawyers last week submitted the petition in which he expressed dissatisfaction with Judge Rafique and alleged he was working under the influence of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, the prosecution and the Indian government. Lakhvi had asked for the judge to be changed, claiming he could not expect justice from him.
Seven Pakistani suspects, including Lakhvi, have been accused of planning, facilitating and financing the attacks in India's financial hub that killed 166 people in November 2008.
The trial has been marred by controversies and technical delays and only a handful of over 160 prosecution witnesses have testified so far. PTI