Haksar, Pancholi withdraw as Afzal family lawyers

A day after they informed Tihar Jail authorities that the family of Afzal Guru wanted his body returned, lawyers N D Pancholi and Nandita Haksar Wednesday withdrew as counsel for the family, citing "unseemly controversies" and "suspicion" by certain political groups in Kashmir.

"Unseemly controversies have arisen and we do not wish to be a part to these discussions," Pancholi and Haksar said in a statement.

A day earlier, the lawyers had written to the Tihar Director General, seeking the return of Afzal's body and his belongings. They had also sought permission for the family to offer prayers at his grave in Tihar. The family later said it did not wish to visit Tihar and only wanted his body returned.

Pancholi and Haksar said their "efforts to build bridges" were being "constantly undermined" by authorities who condemned their efforts as "anti-national" while some political groups in Kashmir regarded their "offers of solidarity and friendship with suspicion".

Responding to criticism that they did not represent Afzal at the time of his trial, Pancholi and Haksar said they were never approached to fight the legal battle. "After he was condemned to death, his wife approached us to write the mercy petition on her behalf and later on his behalf. Without his vakalatnama, we could not have visited him in jail," they said.

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