India allows another visit by Pak 26/11 legal panel

FP

In a bid to expedite the 26/11 terror attack trial in Pakistan, India Thursday conveyed its "in-principle agreement" to allow a second judicial commission from Pakistan to visit Mumbai and cross-examine the officials involved in recording the confessional statement of Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorist.

On a day when US authorities placed key 26/11 mastermind Sajid Mir and seven other Lashkar members under anti-terror sanctions, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari that any action towards an expeditious conclusion of the 26/11 trial in Pakistan will be a significant confidence building measure and help boost public support for the peace process.

In this context, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik raised the issue of the judicial commission not being allowed to cross-examine the magistrate and the investigating officer who recorded Kasab's statement, as well as the doctor who examined him. He requested that a second team be allowed to visit India with the permission to cross-examine these officials.

"We have taken a positive view of the request and given our in-principle agreement. But we will have to get judicial clarification on this, which the Home Ministry will do," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said after the 35-minute meeting between the two leaders on the margins of the NAM Summit. The foreign secretary also welcomed the US efforts in sanctioning the eight LeT terrorists.

One of the main reasons for not allowing the Pakistani judicial team to cross-examine on its first visit was that Kasab's appeal against his conviction was being heard by the Supreme Court and the Home Ministry did not want to jeopardize that process.

With the SC confirming Kasab's death sentence Wednesday, India can reconsider the Pakistani request. Without cross-examination, Kasab's statement will not be admissible in the Rawalpindi anti-terror court hearing the case.

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