Pakistan's 26/11 Mumbai attacks trial adjourned over LeT commander's petition

In a hearing, Lakhvi's lawyers submitted the petition in which he expressed dissatisfaction with Judge Shahid Rafique.

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The trial of seven Pakistanis charged with involvement in the 2008 Mumbai attacks was adjourned for a week after one of the key accused, Lashkar-e-Taiba commander Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi, filed a petition against the judge of the anti-terrorism court.

During a hearing held behind closed doors in Rawalpindi's Adiala Jail, due to security reasons, Lakhvi's lawyers submitted the petition in which he expressed dissatisfaction with Judge Shahid Rafique.

Lakhvi alleged the judge was working under the influence of Pakistan's Interior Ministry, the prosecution and the Indian government.

Lakhvi asked for the judge to be changed, claiming he could not expect justice from him.

There were no proceedings after the petition was filed and the judge adjourned the case till September 17, sources said.

Three prosecution witnesses were expected to testify today.

The proceedings have already been marred by controversies and technical delays and the judge has been changed four times.

Chief prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar said the defence lawyers became annoyed with Judge Rafique after he allowed the formation of a commission to go to India to interview key officials linked to the investigation of the Mumbai attacks.

The defence lawyers were now resorting to "delaying tactics", he said.

Zulfiqar said he had informed the court that this was not the first time that the defence lawyers had expressed dissatisfaction with the judge.

"They have expressed dissatisfaction with the four judges who were earlier appointed to hear the case," he said.

"No one else but the defence is trying to influence the court," he said.

Zulfiqar said he too had filed an application in the court that requested the judge to take note of the delaying tactics of the defence lawyers and to continue recording the testimony of witnesses.

Lakhvi's lawyer Khwaja Sultan said the application against the judge should be heard by an administrative judge.

However, since the government had appointed Rafique as the administrative judge, the petition will be referred to the Chief Justice of the Islamabad High Court, he claimed.

Among the witnesses who were to depose in the court Saturday were Riffat Masood, Pakistan's former Deputy high Commissioner to India who is now posted as the Consul General in Los Angeles, Fawad Sher, the former Director (India) in the Foreign Office, and a former senior Federal Investigation Agency official.

Seven Pakistani suspects, including Lakhvi, have been accused of planning, facilitating and financing the attacks in India's financial hub that killed 166 people in November 2008.

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