ISLAMABAD, (Reuters) – Pakistani police have arrested two more suspects involved in the planning of a militant attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last November, bringing the number in custody to seven, a state-run news agency reported after a court hearing on Saturday.
Proceedings have already been launched against five men arrested earlier, and during a hearing on Saturday police produced a sixth suspect to seek extension for remand, while the court adjourned a hearing on a bail application of a seventh suspect until Sept. 1, the Urdu-language service of Associated Press of Pakistan (APP) said.
India wants forceful action by Pakistan to bring to justice leaders of the Lashkar-e-Taiba group (LeT) it says were behind the attacks which killed 166 people, and has refused to resume a peace process that was suspended days after the assault.
The case has been shrouded in secrecy as the court was convened in camera at a jail in Rawalpindi, the garrison town next to Islamabad, and lawyers were under instruction not to discuss the proceedings.
The court adjourned until Sept. 5 the case against the five men arrested earlier, Shahbaz Rajput, a lawyer representing one of the accused, told Reuters after Saturday’s hearing.
The suspects on trial at Adiala Jail are Zaki-ur-Rehman Lakhvi, a commander of the LeT, and four others: Hammad Amin, Abdul Wajid alias Zarar Shah, Mazhar Iqbal alias Abu al Qama and Shahid Jameel Riaz.
The two other men arrested were identified as Jameel Ahmed and Younus Anjum in APP’s report.
Citing excerpts from an earlier order by the court’s judge, the private television channel Dawn News said proceedings were being held in camera in order to protect the judge, lawyers and witnesses and due to the “security and national interest”.
A U.S. Embassy spokesman said U.S. officials had not sought permission to attend the trial as observers. U.S. nationals were among those killed during the militants’ three-day killing spree in Mumbai.
Critics say the secrecy raised suspicions that Pakistani intelligence agencies do not want their relationships with militants to be aired in public.
Indian and Pakistani leaders agreed last month to restart a dialogue, though India was unready to restart the peace process that the two nuclear-armed rivals had begun in 2004.
The South Asian neighbours have fought three wars since their partition in 1947 following independence from Britain, and went to the brink of a fourth in 2002.
India is also pressing Pakistan to prosecute LeT founder, Hafiz Saeed.
Saeed was detained in Pakistan in December, after a U.N. Security Council resolution put him on a list of people and organisations supporting al Qaeda. But in June, a court released him on grounds of insufficient evidence, prompting the Pakistani government to lodge an appeal with the Supreme Court for his re-arrest. That case is pending.
India says Saeed was the mastermind of the Mumbai attack and that it has provided sufficient evidence against him for Pakistan to prosecute him. Pakistan says evidence against him is insufficient.
India has accused Pakistan in the past of running a proxy war in Indian Kashmir by using jihadi groups such as LeT. Pakistan has always denied the charge, saying it merely gave moral and diplomatic support to Kashmiri Muslims fighting for independence.