ISLAMABAD: Pakistani prosecutors Monday filed an application seeking permission for an Indian magistrate and a police officer to depose via video conferencing in the anti-terrorism court conducting the trial of seven suspects charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks.
The prosecutors filed the application in the court of Judge Mr Malik Muhammad Akram Awan, who is conducting the trial of the seven suspects, including Lashker-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi.
Pakistan had earlier asked India to send additional chief metropolitan magistrate Mr R V Sawant Waghule, who recorded the confession of lone surviving Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab, and investigating officer Mr Ramesh Mahale to testify in the Rawalpindi-based anti-terrorism court.
Indian authorities ruled out the possibility of sending the two officials to Pakistan but said they could depose via video conferencing.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Mr Rehman Malik has said the testimony of the two Indian officials is a legal requirement and could help speed up the trial of the seven Pakistani suspects.
Experts have said the testimony of the two Indian officials is crucial as the Pakistani prosecution’s case is largely based on Kasab’s confessional statement.
Lawyers defending the seven suspects described the prosecution’s application as a delaying tactic and said they would contest it.
“This application is frivolous and a waste of time. Deposition through video conferencing is not possible under Pakistan’s existing laws,” Mr Shahbaz Rajput, one of the defence lawyers, told PTI.
“We will contest this application. Our clients have been in custody for nearly two years and such applications by the prosecution are simply aimed at prolonging the case,” said Mr Rajput.
In a related development, Judge Mr Awan put off the hearing of the bail application filed by Lakhvi after the new special public prosecutor appointed by the government sought an adjournment.
Mr Azhar Mehmood, the new special public prosecutor, sought the adjournment as he was busy with another case in the Lahore High Court.
At a recent hearing, the judge had reserved his decision on the bail application after hearing arguments by the prosecution and the defence. The bail plea is now expected to be taken up at the next hearing of the Mumbai attacks case on August 28.
Lakhvi and the six other suspects have been charged with planning and facilitating the attacks in India’s financial hub that killed 166 people in November 2008.
An Indian anti-terrorism court has already convicted Kasab for his role in the carnage and sentenced him to death.