Accountability judge Mohammad Bashir, who convicted Sharif family in Avenfield properties references, has recused himself from hearing two pending corruption references against ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Dawn has learned.
The development comes after Nawaz Sharif through his counsel filed an appeal for transfer of Al-Azizia and Flagship references to another accountability court in Islamabad.
Nawaz Sharif, his daughter Maryam Nawaz and son-in-law retired Captain Mohammad Safdar on Monday challenged their conviction in the Avenfield properties reference and appealed before the Islamabad High Court (IHC) to annul the verdict of the accountability court.
On July 6, Judge Bashir had sentenced Nawaz, Maryam, and Safdar in the Avenfield reference. Subsequently, the counsel for Nawaz, Khawaja Haris, had requested the court to transfer the two pending references against Nawaz — Al-Azizia and Flagship Investment — to another accountability court since the arguments in both cases were similar to the ones in the Avenfield reference.
Nawaz's counsel argued that since the evidence in both the cases was similar, the verdict may be the same if heard by the same judge.
He had earlier requested Judge Bashir to recuse himself from the case for the same reasons and the latter had agreed to refer the matter to the IHC.
If Haris' arguments are deemed valid, the case will be transferred to another judge, as the IHC holds the authority to transfer cases to another court.
It is pertinent to mention that following the conviction of the Sharif family, Khawaja Haris had requested the judge to recuse himself but he refused and wrote a letter to the Supreme Court informing about the objection. The apex court, however, gave a go-ahead to Judge Bashir to proceed with the trial.
Subsequently, the judge dismissed an application filed by Haris seeking transfer of the case to another court during last week. Later Haris filed an appeal against the order of Judge Bashir before the IHC.
In the appeal, the counsel stated that the court had announced the verdict in absentia, even though the Sharifs had appealed to the court to delay the judgment for seven days.
The appeal seeking transfer of references maintained that the accountability court in July 6 judgement “has given its findings in respect of (i) status and relevancy of the JIT report, (ii) pleading of the co accused ...(iii) interviews of co-accused and their impact and relevancy (iv) appellant’s address to the nation on April 5, 2016, and his speech given on the floor of the National Assembly on May 16, 2016, (v) all assertions relating to Gulf Steel Mills and Qatar.”
It said, the court has already disclosed its mind on the evidence and documents produced by the prosecution in Avenfield reference and it would not be appropriate for this court to continue holding the trial in the Al-Azizia and Flagship references since the evidence in these cases are also the same.