Lakhvi lawyers challenge Pak court ruling

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Islamabad: Lawyers defending seven Pakistanis, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks on Saturday challenged an anti-terrorism court`s ruling that Ajmal Kasab and Fahim Ansari could be made part of legal proceedings in Pakistan.

During proceedings held behind closed doors at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi, the defence lawyers filed a petition listing their objections to an order issued by Judge Rana Nisar Ahmed on Tuesday that backed the prosecution`s contention that Kasab and Ansari could be made part of the proceedings.

"In our arguments, we also presented other matters that are objectionable to us," Shahbaz Rajput, one of the defence lawyers, told PTI.

The judge scheduled the next hearing in the case for May 14. The defence lawyers pointedly asked the judge if Kasab and Ansari were being jointly tried with the seven other suspects in the anti-terrorism court.

"The judge acknowledged that their trial was not being conducted jointly with the others," Rajput said.

He contended that the judge`s observation will help in making progress in the trial of the seven accused, whom he claimed had been "suffering without trial" for over two years.

In an order issued on Tuesday, Judge Ahmed had ruled that an application filed by the defence lawyers, which stated that no person could be tried twice for the same offence, was not maintainable.

The defence lawyers have contended that Section 403 of the Criminal Procedure Code and Article 13 of the Constitution did not permit persons like Kasab and Ansari to be retried for the same offence.

Kasab has been convicted and sentenced to death by a special court in India.

The same court acquitted Ansari but he continues to be in custody in connection with other cases.

The defence lawyers have contended that the trial of the seven others suspects has been held up because prosecutors could not determine the legal status of Kasab.

The anti-terrorism court had earlier ruled that Kasab and Ansari could not be declared "proclaimed offenders" or fugitives as they were not wilfully avoiding court proceedings in Pakistan.

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