Pak court adjourns 26/11 case till March 5

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Rezaul H Laskar

Islamabad, Feb 26 (PTI) A Pakistani court today adjournedtill March 5 the trial of LeT''s Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and sixother suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacksafter hearing arguments by defence and prosecution lawyers ona move to declare Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari as fugitives.

Prosecutors from the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)renewed their request to the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorismcourt to declare Kasab, the lone surviving attacker, andterror suspect Ansari as "proclaimed offenders" or fugitivesand issue arrest warrants for them.

The prosecutors had initially filed the request in Maylast year.

They were forced to withdraw a petition on the same issuein the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court on Thursdayafter a bench observed that Kasab and Ansari were notwilfully absconding and could not be declared fugitives.

The High Court also asked the prosecutors to take up theissue with the anti-terrorism court.

During today''s proceedings conducted by Judge Rana NisarAhmed, lawyers defending the seven suspects filed anapplication in which they sought the start of trialproceedings and recording of evidence against the accused.

The application said the trial proceedings should startas soon as possible after the anti-terrorism court gave itsverdict on the prosecution''s request to declare Kasab andAnsari as fugitives.

The application was filed under section 403 of the Codeof Criminal Procedure and Article 13 of the Constitution.

Both provisions state that no person can be prosecuted orpunished for the same offence more than once.

Khwaja Sultan, the lawyer for Lashker-e-Taiba operationscommander Lakhvi, told the judge that an Indian court hadalready given a verdict against Kasab and he could not betried twice for the same crime.

Sultan argued that if the issue of declaring Kasab andAnsari as fugitives dominates proceedings in theanti-terrorism case, the case would never end.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Judge Ahmedadjourned the case till March 5.

Kasab, a Pakistani national, was sentenced to death by acourt in Mumbai for his role in the attacks on India''sfinancial hub that killed 166 people in November 2008.

Ansari, an Indian national, was acquitted by the samecourt but continues to be in custody in connection with othercases.

The trial of the seven Pakistani suspects, a majority ofthem LeT operatives, has been marred by repeated delays overtechnical matters.

The judge has been changed thrice and only one of themore than 160 prosecution witnesses has testified so far. PTIRHL MZ

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