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26/11: Pak for cross-examining witnesses

Islamabad: Pakistani authorities have sent two requests to India to allow defence lawyers to cross-examine key witnesses in the 2008 Mumbai attacks case, saying any failure to do so could allow the accused in the country to go scot-free.
    
In a message sent to Indian authorities through diplomatic channels on July 20, the Federal Investigation Agency asked that the defence counsel should be allowed to cross-examine surviving attacker Ajmal Kasab, chief investigation officer Ramesh Mahale, and Ganesh Dhunraj and Chintaman Mohite, the two doctors who performed the autopsies of slain attackers.
    
The FIA also sent to India authorities the July 17 order of a Pakistani anti-terrorism court that declared illegal the findings of a Pakistani commission which had recorded the statements of these four witnesses during a visit to India.
    
The court rejected the findings of the panel after lawyers defending the seven accused said they had not been allowed to cross-examine the witnesses. The Pakistani authorities are awaiting a reply from their Indian counterparts though a reminder was sent on the issue, the Dawn newspaper quoted its sources as saying.
    
If the Indian government does not allow cross-examination by the defence lawyers, the statements of key witnesses recorded earlier would be declared inadmissible in the case, the sources said.
    
In such a situation, even the confessional statement of Kasab, CCTV footage of the attackers and 780 documents that the Indian government handed over to Pakistan through diplomatic channels will all go to waste, the sources were quoted as saying.

FIA Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali said the anti-terrorism court had already declared that findings of the Pakistani commission would be inadmissible unless the defence counsel can cross-examine the Indian witnesses.
    
He said the evidence could lead to the conviction of the seven accused – Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, Abdul Wajid, Mazhar Iqbal, Hammad Amin Sadiq, Shahid Jameel Riaz, Jamil Ahmed and Younas Anjum.
    
Riaz Akram Cheema, a defence counsel, said the Indian witnesses should be asked to record their statements in the Pakistani anti-terrorism court. He claimed exempting the Indian witnesses from cross-examination was against Sections 503 and 507 of Pakistan’s Criminal Procedure Code and provisions of the Indian CrPC, which made cross-examination of witnesses mandatory in trials and inquiries.

(Agencies)

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