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Pakistan Holds Mumbai Conspirators' Trial In Secrecy


Last year's attacks killed 166 people

Last year's attacks killed 166 people

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistan kept a veil of secrecy over court proceedings on August 29 in the case against five Islamist militants accused of planning attacks on the Indian city of Mumbai that killed 166 people last November.

India wants forceful action by Pakistan to bring to justice leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group (LeT) it says were behind the attacks, and has refused to resume a peace process that was suspended days after the assault.

The court convened in camera at a jail in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next to Islamabad, and lawyers were under instruction not to discuss the case.

"Today's hearing has ended but we can't share any details with you; we have been barred from divulging any details of the trial," one of the lawyers told journalists as he left the jail. He refused to be identified.

Lawyers even refused to say when the next hearing would take place, and it was unclear whether the hearings were still in the pre-trial phase.

Citing "excerpts" from an earlier order by the court's judge, the private television channel Dawn News said proceedings were being held in camera for the protection of the judge, lawyers, and witnesses and keeping in view the "security and national interest."

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said U.S. officials had not sought permission to attend the trial as observers. U.S. nationals were among those killed during the militants' three-day killing spree in Mumbai.

Critics say the secrecy raised suspicions that Pakistani intelligence agencies do not want their relationships with militants to be aired in public.

Indian and Pakistani leaders agreed last month to restart a dialogue, though India was unready to restart the peace process that the two nuclear-armed rivals had begun in 2004.

The South Asian neighbours have fought three wars since their partition in 1947 following independence from Britain, and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002.

The suspects on trial at Adiala Jail are Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander of the LeT, and four others: Hammad Amin, Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama and Shahid Jameel Riaz.

India is also pressing Pakistan to prosecute LeT founder, Hafiz Saeed.

Saeed was detained in Pakistan in December, after a UN Security Council resolution put him on a list of people and organisations supporting Al-Qaeda.

But in June, a court released him on grounds of insufficient evidence, prompting the Pakistani government to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court for his re-arrest. That case is pending.

India says Saeed was the mastermind of the Mumbai attack and that it has provided sufficient evidence against him for Pakistan to prosecute him. Pakistan says evidence against him is insufficient.

India has accused Pakistan in the past of running a proxy war in Indian Kashmir by using jihadi groups like LeT. Pakistan has always denied the charge, saying it merely gave moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri Muslims fighting for independence.
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