ISLAMABAD - Defense attorneys in Pakistan have alleged the government rearrested the suspected leader of the 2008 Mumbai attacks on “fake” charges to appease India. Authorities in Pakistan appear to have a problem because the release of the man could further raise tensions with India and attempting to influence the judiciary could draw massive criticism at home.
The accused, Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, is one of seven suspects being tried in Pakistan on charges of planning the Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people.
The men were arrested shortly after the deadly 2008 militant raid in the Indian commercial capital, and New Delhi has since been demanding Islamabad prosecute and punish them.
However, earlier this month the anti-terrorism court trying the suspects ordered Lakhvi be released on bail, citing a “lack of evidence” and “flaws in the prosecution's case. The ruling outraged India but tensions eased after Pakistani authorities ordered Lakhvi to remain in custody under a public order law.
Defense attorneys successfully contested the detention order in a higher court that ruled on Monday that the suspected militant leader could be freed on bail. But hours after Lakhvi won the appeal, police rearrested him on new kidnapping charges.
Defense lawyer Rizwan Abbasi said he has launched new challenges against what he criticized as “fake” charges and the “ghost” complainant. Abassi said his client has been in jail for more than six years so how could someone in custody have kidnapped anybody.
“It is alleged against my client that he has abducted one person who is in custody since more than six-and-a-half year. How is it possible that a person who was in jail since last six years he can retain someone in his custody? From the face of it this allegation is ridiculous,” he said.
Attorney Abbasi said that Pakistani authorities were reluctant to release his client because they did not want to upset India.
“It is very clear that on Indian pressure my client has been put in custody just to deprive him from the right of liberty,” he said.
India summoned the Pakistani envoy in New Delhi to the foreign ministry to protest Monday’s first ruling that appeared to free Lakhvi.
He is expected to appear before the court on Thursday when a report detailing the police investigation into the kidnapping charges is submitted.
The suspects on trial in Pakistan are allegedly members of the outlawed militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba that India accuses of being behind the 2008 Mumbai carnage.
The latest "back and forth" in the high profile case comes as relations between Pakistan and India have plunged to new lows in the wake of recent border clashes. However, Pakistani officials maintain the country's judiciary is independent and the government cannot interfere in the legal proceedings.
Both the rival countries reported fresh clashes on Wednesday along the disputed border in Kashmir. The cross-border firing is said to have killed two Pakistani soldiers and an India soldier. It is unclear who initiated the fire.