Pakistani accused in Mumbai attacks case hire new lawyers

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Islamabad/Lahore, Nov 24: The seven Pakistani accused in the Mumbai attacks case, including Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, have appointed two new lawyers to carry forward the long-delayed trial.

The accused have hired Islamabad-based Zahid Hussain Tirmizi and Raja Rizwan Abbasi to defend them in the case being heard by an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad after the earlier lawyers separated themselves from the case citing "personal reasons".

Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum were arrested in July 2009 for their alleged role in the November 26, 2008 attacks in India's financial hub in which 166 people were killed and over 300 injured.

Abbasi rejected apprehensions that the case would now be delayed further. "There is no question of delay from our side. Our clients have been in custody for five years and we want the case to be sped up," Abbasi said.

The accused have hired Islamabad-based lawyers to defend them.

The next hearing of the case is scheduled for November 27, a day after the fifth anniversary of the brazen attacks. Special Public Prosecutor in the case, Chaudhury Mohammed Azhar had also said the case would not be delayed. "There is no question of any delay.

The case will go on. New defence lawyers have been appointed," he said. The earlier defence lawyers -  Khawaja Haris and Riaz Akram Cheema – had separated themselves from the case yesterday.

Cheema said Haris had already separated himself from the case and handed it over to him. Cheema had been pursuing the case since the beginning while Haris replaced his father Khawaja Sultan Ahmed on his death over a year ago.

Cheema was also part of the Pakistani Judicial Commission that had visited India recently. Asked if he was removed by the accused, he told PTI, "In fact Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and others requested me to review the decision to separate myself from the case."

He said, "Those saying that the accused changed the lawyers because of the delay in the case is not true. We had filed a petition in the trial court requesting a day-to-day hearing for early disposal of the case."

"Despite indictment of the accused under Anti-Terrorism Act inordinate delay is made. Under the law, it is mandatory that cases are disposed of without any delay," he said. India has already been expressing disappointment with the slow-paced progress of the trial. PTI

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