Pak 26/11 trial: Judge changed for 5th time
Islamabad: The judge conducting the trial of LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and six other Pakistani suspects charged with involvement in the Mumbai attacks was today changed for the fifth time, raising questions about progress in the case. Anti-terrorism court Judge Shahid Rafique, who was hearing the matter, was transferred and posted as district and sessions judge in Jhang area of Punjab province, officials said.
No judge was named to replace Rafique. Following the transfer, the case was adjourned till June 9. Khwaja Haris Ahmed, the counsel for Lakhvi, the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks, expressed disappointment on yet another change in the judge conducting the trial. "It is disappointing," Ahmed told PTI.
No reason was given for the judge`s transfer but Ahmed said the move was "not unusual." A prosecutor described the development as a routine transfer and posting. "Some other judges of Rawalpindi were also transferred today," he said. The prosecution was earlier scheduled to present its arguments on the report of a Pakistani judicial commission that had visited Mumbai to record the statements of key officials who probed the 2008 Mumbai attacks. At the last hearing on Saturday, Lakhvi filed an application that asked the judge not to make the commission`s report part of the proceedings. Lakhvi claimed the report had "no legal value".
Judge Rafique began hearing the Mumbai attacks case last year after the judge of the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court was changed fourth time since the proceedings began in early 2009. The proceedings have dragged on behind closed doors at Adiala Jail without much progress.
The trial has been marred by controversies and technical delays and only a handful of over 160 prosecution witnesses have testified so far. In September last year, there were no proceedings for several weeks as no judge was assigned to the case. The seven suspects, including Lakhvi, have been charged with planning, financing and executing the terror attacks in Mumbai that killed 166 people in November 2008.