ISLAMABAD/LONDON: The Islamabad High Court on Tuesday was given a letter by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) which contains the British government’s formal approval to share evidence with Pakistan in connection with the Dr Imran Farooq murder case. The IHC set a two-month deadline for the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) to conclude the case.

An IHC division bench, comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, accepted the application filed by the FIA seeking an extension in the time frame set to conclude the murder trial of the slain MQM leader. Last year, the IHC had directed the trial court to complete the hearing by October 2018.

Toby Cadman, the counsel for the Pakistan government, confirmed that following a request for Mutual Legal Assistance (MLA) to transfer evidence relevant to the murder inquiry into the death of Dr Farooq, the FIA prosecution team has received an acceptance letter from the United Kingdom Central Authority confirming the transfer of evidence in the possession of the UK authorities.

Mr Cadman confirmed to Dawn that he had travelled to Pakistan to deliver the letter of acceptance and evidence index. According to him, the request for MLA was accepted by the UK Central Authority, and the letter confirming that was presented to the high court on Tuesday.

Letter from UK authority submitted by prosecution to IHC

The FIA enclosed this document along with an application submitted to the IHC to seek two months to present the evidence obtained from the UK authorities, collected as part of their investigations into the murder of Imran Farooq, and for an officer of the Metropolitan Police Service to produce the evidence and provide his statement on the investigation.

According to sources, the evidence in question includes certified post-mortem report, death certificate, witness statements, murder weapons, clothes, etc.

The court extended the completion time for the trial pending since 2010 after the special prosecutor of the FIA, Khawaja Imtiaz, gave an undertaking that the UK Central Authority has principally agreed to hand over evidence in the murder case.

However, it was the prosecution of the FIA which requested for an extension of the completion date for the trial since the evidence in hand was apparently insufficient to prove the case against the accused persons, FIA sources said.

Initially, the UK authorities did not respond to Pakistan’s request for MLA. The UK government had been reluctant to hand over the evidence to Pakistan since European laws did not permit the sharing of evidence with a country where the offence was punishable by death. However, the special prosecutor informed the court that Pakistan had assured the UK that the accused in this case would not be executed despite being convicted.

Two suspects in the case — Khalid Shamim and Syed Mohsin Ali — have recorded their confessional statements before the magistrate, saying that Dr Farooq was killed because he was a “potent threat to the leadership of the MQM”. However, recently, these suspects have backtracked from their confessional statement, saying that they recorded the previous statement under coercion.

Another suspect, Moazzam Ali, has not yet recorded his confessional statement in the case.

Dr Farooq, a senior leader of the MQM, was murdered outside his home in London in 2010.

Published in Dawn, September 18th, 2019