U-turn by Pak prosecutors in Mumbai terror case

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M Zulqernain and Rezaul H Laskar

Lahore/Islamabad, Jan 12 (PTI) In yet another twist inthe trial of seven Pakistani suspects linked to the Mumbaiterror attacks, prosecutors have done a U-turn on a proposalto drop a legal move to get Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansarideclared as "proclaimed offenders" or fugitives.

The Federal Investigation Agency has decided to pursuea petition filed in the Lahore High Court to challenge ananti-terrorism court''s decision not to declare Kasab andAnsari as fugitives.

Prosecutors had recently told the anti-terrorismcourt, 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 petitiontomorrow, an official in the prosecution team said.

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

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

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

They said the proceedings in the anti-terrorism casewere unlikely to move forward till the case in the Lahore HighCourt is settled.

The FIA''s petition asks the High Court to declareKasab and Ansari as proclaimed offenders, to issuenon-bailable warrants for them and to de-link their case fromthat of the seven Pakistani suspects.

Kasab has been sentenced to death by a special courtin Mumbai for his role in the attacks that killed 166 people.

Ansari was acquitted by the same court but continuesto be in custody for other cases.

The FIA contended in its petition that Kasab andAnsari should be declared proclaimed offenders as they were inthe custody of Indian authorities and could not be brought toPakistan.

The latest development reflects the confusion that hassurrounded Pakistan''s efforts to prosecute the suspectscharged with planning, financing and executing the attacks.

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

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