Pakistan produces Mumbai attack suspects in court: lawyer

Pakistan, July 25, 2009 (AFP) - Five suspects accused by India of involvement in last year's Mumbai terror attacks that killed 166 people appeared in a special court in Pakistan Saturday, their defence lawyer said.

The November 26-29 siege of the Indian city also left more than 300 people injured when 10 heavily armed gunmen targeted luxury hotels, the city's main railway station, a popular restaurant and Jewish centre.

Relations between the two nuclear-armed rivals worsened dramatically after the carnage that New Delhi blamed on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

"All the five (defendants) were produced in the court chaired by Judge Baqar Ali Rana," defence lawyer Shahbaz Rajput told reporters.

The judge adjourned the court until August 29, after the proceedings which lasted about one hour, Rajput said.

Journalists were not allowed to witness the court proceedings, which were held behind closed doors.

Court officials said the suspects included the alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and an alleged key LeT operative Zarar Shah.

The anti-terrorism court met in a special room set up in the high-security Adiala jail in Rawalpindi, a garrison city adjoining the capital, Islamabad.

"We have requested the court to provide us documents relating to the evidence against our clients," while the prosecution lawyer demanded a closed-door meeting of the court, Rajput said.

"The court heard arguments from both sides and the judge may give his views on our requests later in the day," Rajput said.

Prosecution officials were not immediately available for comment.

Judge Rana arrived at court amid tight security, escorted by several police vans.

The judge at the previous hearing on July 18 had allowed defence lawyer Rajput to meet the accused.

Rajput said the suspects, Pakistanis arrested in different parts of the country, were innocent.

"My clients are innocent, the case has been initiated against them under international pressure," he said.

"Pakistan is being pressured by India to punish these people at any cost," he said, insisting that the government had "no solid evidence" against them.

He gave no details of the proceedings saying that the judge had advised both sides not to divulge details to the media.

Rajput described the hearing as "pre-trial proceedings" saying that so far the accused had not been formally charged.

India has put on trial Pakistani national, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, the sole surviving gunman of the Mumbai attacks.

Kasab, 21, told an Indian court on Wednesday he was prepared to be put to death after making a dramatic confession of his role in the operation.

The Mumbai siege put on hold a fragile peace process launched in 2004 to resolve all outstanding issues between the neighbours, including a territorial dispute over the Himalayan state of Jammu and Kashmir.

New Delhi insists it will resume talks to normalise ties only after Islamabad brings to justice the alleged perpetrators of the Mumbai attacks.

Pakistan and India have fought two of their three wars since 1947 over Kashmir, divided between them but claimed in full by both.

The two sides came dangerously close to a fourth conflict after New Delhi blamed Pakistan-based militants of attacking parliament in New Delhi in 2001.

Source: AFP

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