ISLAMABAD: The Anti Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad on Thursday concluded the trial proceedings in the murder case of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) leader Dr Imran Farooq. A verdict will be announced on June 18.

Concluding his arguments, special prosecutor Khawaja Mohammad Imtiaz informed the court that Pakistan has assured the British government that the accused in this case would not be given the death sentence even if he is found guilty of murdering Farooq.

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

The British government was reluctant to share evidence with Pakistan’s Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) as the European laws discourage the death sentence.

However, upon Pakistan’s assurance that the suspects would not be given the death penalty, the UK shared key evidence with Pakistan. Among the evidence Pakistan received from the UK Central Authority are the CCTV footage of the murder incident, forensic and post-mortem reports, recovery memo, statements of the investigation officer and 23 witnesses.

Verdict will be announced on June 18

Dr Farooq’s widow, Shumaila Syeda Nazar, was also among the British witnesses. In her statement recorded before ATC Judge Shahrukh Arjumand, she said that her husband went to the market to buy bread, but never returned. When she tried to find out him, she found police standing near her home. Her neighbour informed her that two youngsters shook hand with Farooq and then one of them attacked him with a knife while the other hit his head with a brick.

In September last year, 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 UK 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 as the European laws did not permit the sharing of evidence with a country where the offence was punishable by death.

However, the Pakistani government has assured the UK government that if convicted, the accused persons would not be given death penalty and also given assurance of amending the law.

The trial of the murder suspects had been standstill since last year as the prosecution case was stuck up because of non-availability of evidence.

In 2018, the IHC had directed the ATC to conclude the much-delayed trial by October 2018. However, the prosecution of the FIA repeatedly requested the court for extension of the deadline since the British government was reluctant to share evidence related to the murder fearing that the accused might get death sentence if convicted.

Two suspects in the case — Khalid Shamim and Syed Mohsin Ali — have recorded their confessional statements before a magistrate, saying Dr Farooq was killed because he was a “potent threat to the leadership of the MQM”.

However, they have backtracked from their confessional statements, saying they had recorded the previous statements under coercion.

Published in Dawn, May 22nd, 2020

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