ISLAMABAD: Testimonies of British officials of Counter-Terrorism Command (CTC) in the murder case of MQM leader Dr Imran Farooq have been delayed as the prosecution said due to the ongoing Azadi March the foreign witnesses would not be able to appear before the Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) Islamabad on Wednesday (today).
The ATC, located in proximity to the venue of JUI’s sit-in, was scheduled to record the statement of three witnesses, who are officials of the CTC or SO15 in London’s Metropolitan Police Service.
But special prosecutor of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) Khawaja Imtiaz Ahmed filed an application in the ATC on Tuesday saying because of the prevailing law and order situation in the capital the British witnesses cannot come to Pakistan to testify on Wednesday.
ATC informed that due to current security situation, three officials from London police could not visit Islamabad
He said these officials were custodians of the record related to Imran Farooq murder case which the UK government recently handed over to Pakistan.
However, due to the security situation it is not possible for them to stay in Islamabad and requested the court to put off recording of their statements to Dec 4.
Among the evidence Pakistan received from the UK central authority is the CCTV footage of the murder incident, forensic and postmortem reports, recovery memo, statements of the investigation officer and 23 witnesses.
The prosecution informed the ATC that out of the 23 British witnesses, three - the custodian of the case record - would appear before the court to testify whereas the others would record their statements through a video link.
In September, 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 Mr Farooq, the FIA prosecution team had received an acceptance letter from the United Kingdom Central Authority confirming the transfer of evidence in the possession of the UK authorities.
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 an offence was punishable by death.
However, the government of Pakistan assured the UK government that if convicted the persons would not be given the death penalty. It also assured the UK government of amending the law.
Earlier this month, a PTI Member National Assembly tabled a bill in the National Assembly seeking to exclude the death penalty in cases where evidence was brought from a foreign jurisdiction.
The trial of the murder suspects has been at a standstill since last year as the prosecution case was stuck because of unavailability of evidence.
Last year, Islamabad High Court had directed the ATC to conclude the trial by October 2018. However, the prosecution repeatedly requested the court for an extension of the deadline since the British government was reluctant to share evidence.
Two suspects - Khalid Shamim and Syed Mohsin Ali - have recorded their confessional statements before the magistrate, saying 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 they recorded the statement under coercion.
Another suspect, Moazzam Ali, has not yet recorded his confessional statement.
The ATC indicted the accused under various sections of Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and Anti-Terrorism Act 1997.
On Dec 5, 2015, the FIA registered a case against the MQM chief and other leaders for their alleged involvement in the murder.
Mr Farooq, a senior leader of the MQM, was murdered outside his home in London in 2010.
Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019