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26/11 trial in Pak adjourned in absence of new judge

Islamabad: The trial of seven Pakistani suspects, including LeT commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks was today adjourned for a second consecutive week as no judge has been appointed to hear the case.

During a hearing on June 5, it emerged that anti-terrorism court Judge Shahid Rafique, who was hearing the case, had been transferred and posted as district and sessions judge in Jhang district of Punjab province.

Since then, no one has been appointed to replace him. Proceedings were today adjourned till June 23, court officials said.

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.

Lakhvi`s counsel Khwaja Haris Ahmed expressed disappointment over the delay in the appointment of a judge. "I wonder how the appointment of a judge who has to hear several important and pending cases can be delayed in this manner," Ahmed told PTI. He said a judge should be allowed to serve in a position for three years in line with the existing rules.

The judge hearing the Mumbai attacks case has been changed five times since proceedings began in early 2009. The trial has dragged on behind closed doors at Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi without much progress.

The judge hearing the Mumbai attacks case is also conducting the trial of suspects charged in connection with the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto. There have been no proceedings in that case since June 5.

The proceedings in the Mumbai attacks case have been marred by numerous 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.

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