M A I N   N E W S

Accused complains of coercion in Best Bakery case

Mumbai, November 4
An accused in the 2002 Best Bakery carnage case today complained of coercion, a day after the volte-face by prime eyewitness in the case , Zaheera Sheikh, who retracted her statement made last year in the Vadodara Fast Track Court and charged social activist Teesta Setalvad with threatening her.

Dinesh Rajbhar, one of the accused in the Best Bakery case, told the court of Special Judge Abhay Thipsay that he was threatened by Ms Setalvad.

Dinesh, who made the statement from the witness box today, said while he was leaving the court premises yesterday after the day’s proceedings, Ms Setalvad said, “Main Tum Sab Ko Dekh Lungi (I can handle you all)”.

Dinesh, who made a written application, was asked by the judge if he wanted to say anything on which he took the witness box and brought to the notice of the court about the threat by Ms Setalvad.

A section of Muslim organisations in Mumbai, meanwhile, condemned the allegation of coercion made by Zahira against Teesta Setalvad.

In a statement issued here, Haron Mozawala, general secretary of the All-India Milli Council, said a CBI inquiry must be instituted into Zahira’s most recent volte-face which, he said, was a “blot” on the community. “We do not know the circumstances under which she has made wild allegations against a person who has championed the cause of victims of Gujarat carnage dedicating all her energies and best of her abilities, without fear or favour,” the statement read.

In a separate statement, the All-India Ulema Council here today, too, demanded an inquiry into the entire episode by a Central agency.

The council said, “A careful examination of Zahira’s press conference held at Vadodra yesterday shows unidentified men sitting next to her prompting her on many questions asked by the journalists”.

On being asked where she would like the Best Bakery trial to be conducted, one can hear a voice prompting her in the background, “Kahi Bhi”. Where is she now and in who’s custody are the questions that need to be answered? the statement said.

Maulana Mehmood Dryabadi, general secretary of the council, in the statement said, “No doubt, Zahira is the key eyewitness but there are other witnesses who have identified the culprits and the Best Bakery case is going on. These are attempts to sabotage the proceedings and divert the attention of the public. The fact that the members of the minority community were massacred remains.”

Legal experts opined here today that the retraction of charges by Zaheera Shaikh would not have any impact on the ongoing re-trial proceedings in Best Bakery case of Gujarat and pointed out that she would have to make her statement before the court for it to have legal validity. — UNI


Zaheera changed statement
under pressure: Sahmat

New Delhi, November 4
SAHMAT today alleged that pressure forced Best Bakery eyewitness Zaheera Sheikh to change her statement in the case but hoped that it would not derail the course of justice.

In a statement here, SAHMAT said that Zaheera changing her position is “disturbing”. “It indicates that sinister forces that are operating to deny justice to the victims of communal genocide in Gujarat are still very active.”

It said that Zaheera ’s statement that Teesta Setalvad was in any way coercing her “lacks total credibility”.

“Even before the “Citizens for Peace and Justice took up the Best Bakery case asking for retrial in the Supreme Court, Zaheera had approached the National Human Rights Commission and given a lengthy deposition before the Commission officials,” it recalled.

Moreover, the eyewitness accounts of several other witnesses in the Best Bakery retrial at Mumbai also showed that Zaheera is now acting under pressure, it said and hoped that the course of justice would not be derailed. — UNI


Zaheera fails to turn up in court

Mumbai/Vadodara, November 4
A day after she charged NGO activist Teesta Setalvad of pressurising her into naming innocent people as accused, the key witness in the Best Bakery case Zaheera Sheikh today failed to turn up before a special court hearing retrial of the case.

The special court had asked Zaheera to be present on November 3 or 4 in response to the summons issued almost two weeks ago.

Special Public Prosecutor Manjula Rao said Zaheera refused to accept the summons but the latter’s lawyer Atul Mistri said Zaheera never received the summons.

Zaheera, according to police sources, was shifted from Vadodara to Ahmedabad under heavy police protection.

Seizing on Zaheera’s remarks made at a news conference in Vadodara yesterday, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi today said “the role of the NGOs needed to be studied in depth.”

“Yesterday’s incident raises serious questions. The country, its citizens and constitutional bodies now need to look into the role of NGOs”, Mr Modi said at Padra town on the outskirts of Vadodara today. — PTIBack

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