Pakistan puts off Mumbai case for month

Augustine Anthony,Reuters
Saturday 25 July 2009 10:13 BST

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A Pakistani court due to hear the case against five Islamist militants accused of involvement in the attacks that killed 166 people in the Indian city of Mumbai adjourned for a month without charges being read.

India wants forceful action by Pakistan to bring to justice leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group it says were behind the attacks in late November before formally resuming a peace process that was frozen during the subsequent tensions.

The government's prosecutor, Malik Rab Nawaz Noon, said formal charges against the accused had not yet been framed and Saturday's proceedings ended after some statements were recorded.

A member of the prosecution team and a defence lawyer said the court adjourned until 29 August, and officials said the court had accepted a request by the Federal Investigation Agency for the hearing to be held "in camera".

The media and public have been barred from hearings being held at the Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next door to Islamabad, and lawyers from both sides have divulged little during pre-trial proceedings.

Across the border in India, a trial in Mumbai opened dramatically earlier this week when Mohammad Ajmal Kasab, the only one of 10 Pakistani gunmen captured alive, pleaded guilty and asked to be hanged.

Having sent a dossier to New Delhi earlier this month, Pakistan has said it is waiting for more information from India to support the prosecution case, though Indian officials say all relevant information has been passed on.

Security concerns were cited as the reason for holding the trial inside the jail, though critics say the secrecy fuelled suspicions that Pakistani intelligence agencies don't want any relationships with the jihadis to be aired in public.

The suspects on trial at Adiala include Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander of the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group, and four others Hammad Amin, Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama and Shahid Jameel Riaz.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik earlier this month released photographs of the men along with 13 other suspects who have still to be caught.

22 foreigners were killed during the assault on two luxury hotels, a Jewish centre, a restaurant and railway station in Mumbai.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation provided critical support in the Indian probe.

Richard Holbrooke, US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said on Thursday he was unsure whether US officials had asked to attend the hearings at the Rawalpindi prison as observers, and the US Embassy in Islamabad had still to respond to queries on whether such a request had been lodged.

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