Ascertain if India will allow cross-examination: Pak court

A Pakistani court conducting the trial of seven men charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks today directed authorities to ascertain from India if it is ready to allow the cross-examination of key Indian witnesses.

Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman, the judge of Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court No 1, told prosecutors during proceedings held behind closed doors at Adiala Jail that the federal government should ask its Indian counterpart whether it would permit the cross-examination.

"On getting a reply from the Indian authorities, the court will issue further directions," Khwaja Haris Ahmed, the counsel for Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, told PTI.

The judge also summoned two prosecution witnesses to record their statement at the next hearing on July 28, sources said.

The move came against the backdrop of the trial of the seven accused being virtually stalled since last year for a variety of technical reasons and procedural delays.
Only a handful of the more than 160 prosecution witnesses have testified so far.

At the last hearing on July 17, the court had ruled that all findings of a Pakistani judicial commission that visited India were illegal and could not be made part of the evidence against the accused as the members of the panel were not allowed to cross-examine Indian witnesses.

The judge gave his ruling in response to a petition filed by Lakhvi, who had contended that the commission's report had "no legal value".

The eight-member commission, which included prosecutors and defence lawyers, visited Mumbai in March and interviewed a judge, a senior police officer and two doctors who conducted the autopsies of the terrorists involved in the Mumbai attacks.

Indian officials have said that cross-examination of witnesses was not allowed in line with an agreement between New Delhi and Islamabad.

The anti-terrorism court has said that if India and Pakistan can reach some new agreement that will allow the cross-examination of witnesses, the prosecution could move an application to send another commission to Mumbai.

The seven suspects have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people in November 2008.

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