- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 26, 2009

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan | A Pakistani court that is hearing the case against five men purportedly involved in the Mumbai attacks adjourned for more than a month Saturday without reading out the charges, a defense attorney said.

Pakistan’s prosecution of suspects in the November killings of 166 people in India’s financial capital is considered a test of its commitment to eradicate militancy on its soil, and any delay could test its already tense relations with its giant South Asian rival.

The United States is watching closely because it considers stability in Pakistan - and preserving the Muslim nation’s general detente with India - key to the defeat of insurgents in neighboring Afghanistan.

The delay until Aug. 29 allows some court officials to take vacations, said Shahbaz Rajput, a defense attorney. He said some legal issues also caused the delay, but he could not give details without the court’s permission.

Mr. Rajput said the court failed to read the charges against the accused - akin to issuing an indictment - and that he is still waiting for copies of the list of charges and supporting evidence.

Media were not allowed into the anti-terrorism court proceedings, which were held in a maximum security prison in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

Pointing to the case against the five men, Pakistan insists it is doing its part to bring the Mumbai attackers to justice. But Pakistan has rejected Indian demands to extradite the suspects.

India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesman Vishnu Prakash said Saturday that the country was eager for results.

“We expect the perpetrators of the attacks to be brought to justice. We expect this to be done in a transparent manner and as soon as possible,” he said.

One of the five, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is accused of masterminding the attacks, while the four others acted as facilitators and managed funds and hideouts used by the attackers, Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik has said.

Indian security forces killed nine of the Mumbai attackers. The only suspect caught alive, Ajmal Kasab, a 21-year-old Pakistani, confessed in an Indian court Monday to taking part.

He linked the attacks to Lashkar-e-Taiba, a banned militant outfit formed in the 1980s - purportedly with the blessing of Pakistan’s intelligence services - to sow trouble in the disputed Kashmir region.

Indian prosecutors have argued that Kasab’s statement was incomplete and accused him of seeking to avoid the death penalty.

In response, Kasab said he was willing to be hanged for his actions. The judge in the Indian case has decided to accept Kasab’s confession as evidence but said the trial will proceed because Kasab did not address all the charges against him.

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