26/11 case: Deposition of Indian witnesses before Pak panel begins

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Pakistan decided to send a judicial commission to India for probe into the Mumbai attacks.
File photo

Mumbai, Sep 24 (PTI): The deposition of Indian witnesses in the 26/11 terror attack case began today before an eight-member Pakistani Judicial Commission amid tight security arrangements.

The Commission members arrived at a magistrate court here to cross-examine witnesses of the Mumbai attack, in connection with prosecution of seven suspects held in the neighbouring country for their alleged role in the crime.

Police are keeping strict vigil in and around the court. A thick security blanket is in place at the premises. Also, a dog squad has been pressed into service, police sources said.

The proceedings began with Special Public Prosecutor Ujjwal Nikam, representing the Government of India, introducing the members of the Commission to the court while emphasising on the need of evidence from Indian witnesses against the attack conspirators, whose trial is pending in Pakistan. The evidence is being recorded by Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate P Y Ladekar.

The Indian witnesses are: city magistrate R V Sawant-Waghule who recorded LeT member Ajmal Kasab’s confession, chief investigating officer in 26/11 case Ramesh Mahale and two doctors who conducted the autopsy of the Pakistani terrorists who carried out the attacks in November 2008, official sources said.

This is the Commission’s second visit to India. During the first visit, they had examined the same witnesses. Now, the witnesses are being cross-examined which was refused earlier. The Pakistani Judicial Commission was slated to come earlier to India but the visit was postponed due to the murder of the special public prosecutor in Pakistan.

The Commission includes two officers from the anti-terror court of Pakistan, two defence witnesses and a new special public prosecutor, sources said. Nikam said that a report submitted by the panel after its first visit in March 2012 was rejected by an anti-terrorism court in Pakistan as the Commission members were not allowed to cross-examine the witnesses.

Following this development, a delegation of Indian Home Ministry including Nikam visited Pakistan recently to sort out the matter with Home officials of that country. Eventually, India and Pakistan arrived at a separate agreement allowing the Pakistani Commission to cross-examine 4 Indian witnesses so that their evidence can be used against LeT leader Lakhvi and others facing trial in the neighbouring country.

Ten Pakistani terrorists arrived by sea route on 26 November 2008, and opened fire indiscriminately in public places killing people and injuring others besides damaging property worth crores of rupees. According to police, the conspiracy was hatched by LeT to create terror attacks in India. While nine terrorists were shot dead by armed forces, one gunman, identified as Mohammed Ajmal Amir Kasab was caught alive. Later he was tried and sent to the gallows by a special court in Mumbai. He was executed in Pune’s Yerwada jail last year.

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