A Pakistani anti-terrorism court judge, hearing a number of high-profile cases including the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, has sought fool-proof security, citing threats from Taliban and other banned groups.
Judge Atiqur Rehman had written to the government, following last month’s terror attack on a court here, seeking adequate security measures for him and the lawyers attending the proceedings.
The attack on the Islamabad court has raised concerns among the judicial community. No hearing took place in the Mumbai case last month.
The hearing on March 5 was postponed to March 12 following a boycott by lawyers against the terror incident.
However, the hearing, which is held on a weekly basis, was repeatedly postponed since then as the Judge refused to come for hearing due to security concerns.
The Judge finally came on April 2 but the hearing was held within the premises of the Court rather than at the Adiala Jail in Rawalpindi where it usually takes place.
“The Judge faces security threats from the Taliban due to some other cases he is handling. He has sought fool-proof security for himself and hence the Mumbai case was affected last month,” a source told PTI.
“However, the Court has decided to continue with the hearing at its own premises in absence of the accused so that the trial is not affected further.”
Sources added that the Mumbai trial, which has repeatedly been delayed over the past five years, is movingforward and is in an “important phase”.
Lashkar-e-Taiba operations commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hamad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Anjum have been charged with planning, financing and executing the attacks in India’s financial capital that killed 166 people in November, 2008.
All the accused are jailed in Adiala prison.
Out of about 60 witnesses, the anti-terrorism court has so far completed cross examination of 32 prosecution witnesses.
According to the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the presence of the accused during the recording of statements and cross-examination of the witnesses is mandatory.
The court, however, has the power to exempt the attendance of the accused on justifiable grounds.
In Pakistan’s high-profile criminal and terror-related cases, the job of prosecutors as well as of the defence counsels is perilous.
Sources said Ashish Khetan will be the vice-chairman of the commission.