26/11 case: New judge to hear afresh govt's plea on commission

Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed, who took over the case from Judge Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, had earlier on November 13 reserved the verdict on the government's request to send a commission to India to interview key witnesses, including Kasab, the lone attacker captured alive during the 2008 Mumbai strikes.

However, judge Ahmed today said he would hear afresh the prosecution's petition for sending the commission to India, according to sources.

He said he would decide on the issue after hearing fresh arguments from both the prosecution and defence.

Judge Ahmed adjourned the case till December 4 as the prosecution lawyer could not appear for the hearing, the sources said.

The reason for the lawyer's absence could not be immediately ascertained.
It is the third time in the Mumbai attacks trial of the Pakistani suspects that the judge has been changed since the proceedings began early last year. There was no official word on why the judge had been changed.

On at least one occasion in the past, the judge was changed after he expressed his inability to continue due to threats from militant elements.

Pakistani national Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a Mumbai-based special court.

Pakistan Interior Minister Rehman Malik recently admitted that the trial of the seven suspects had stalled and it was imperative for a commission to visit India and record the testimony of key witnesses, including Kasab.

However, lawyers defending the suspects have refused to be part of the commission.
The trial of the Pakistani suspects has been mired in controversy and delays since last year. The court has completed recording of the testimony of only one out of over 160 witnesses so far.

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