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Pakistan Indicts Five Militants

November 8, 2002

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KARACHI, Pakistan (AP) _ A Pakistani court indicted five Islamic militants Friday for their role in a car bombing outside the U.S. consulate in the port city of Karachi, prosecution and defense lawyers said.

The trial of the militants will start on Nov. 19, said chief prosecutor Habib Ahmad. They will be tried together in a fortified courtroom inside the Karachi jail.

All the militants pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder, terrorism and abetting terrorists.

The militants __ Mohammed Ashraf, Mohammed Imran, Mohammed Hanif, Sharib and Mufti Zubair __ were arrested in August and September and all are allegedly members of Harkat-ul Mujahedeen Al-Almi. Ashraf, Imran and Hanif were indicted earlier in this case but their trial was suspended when Sharib and Zubair were arrested.

The June 14 car bombing outside the U.S. Consulate killed 12 Pakistanis and wounded 50 others.

President Pervez Musharraf’s support for the U.S.-led war against terrorism in Afghanistan angered many radical Islamic groups in Pakistan.

The militants’ group is an offshoot of Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen, or Movement of Holy Warriors, which is fighting Indian rule in Kashmir.

The prosecution has prepared a list of 50 witnesses, including Deputy Police Inspector Ali Gauher Soomro, who was hit in the shoulder with flying debris when the bomb went off.

However, Ahmad said he may drop some of the witnesses to avoid a ``prolonged trial.″

The prosecution said it will demand the death sentence.

``We have a strong case though all accused persons have pleaded not guilty,″ Ahmad told The Associated Press.

One defense lawyer Abdul Waheed Katpar said his client, Mohammed Hanif, is innocent and that he will get him freed.

``I have material evidence that my client is innocent,″ he said of Hanif, who holds a key position in Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen al-Almi.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has escaped two assassination attempts this year, both supposedly planned by Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen al-Almi.

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