Noor murder case: Zahir Jaffer expelled from courtroom again for disturbing witness cross-examinations
Zahir Jaffer, the primary accused in the Noor Mukadam murder case, was expelled from a sessions court in Islamabad once again after he disrupted proceedings for witness cross-examinations on Wednesday.
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20. A first information report was registered the same day against Zahir — who was arrested from the site of the murder, under Section 302 (premeditated murder) of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) on the complaint of the victim's father, Shaukat Ali Mukadam.
A trial court on October 14 had indicted Zahir along with 11 others in the case — his parents, their three household staff including Iftikhar (watchman), Jan Muhammad (gardener) and Jameel (cook), Therapyworks CEO Tahir Zahoor and employees Amjad, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq and Samar Abbas. The murder trial formally began on Oct 20.
During today's hearing, which was presided over by Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani, all accused in the case were presented in the court.
Zahir started speaking during the cross-examination of Muhammad Imran, in-charge of the National Forensic Crime Agency, and called upon Judge Rabbani to bring about a compromise in the case. "Are you listening to me?" he asked the judge.
At this point, he was ordered to be sent out of the courtroom along with his father (Zakir Jaffer) and the three household staff. The four were later admitted back while Zahir was taken to a holding cell.
Zahir had previously disrupted proceedings during a hearing on November 3 for the case, hurling obscenities at Judge Rabbani who had then directed police officials to take him away. Video footage of the incident showed policemen dragging Zahir out of the courtroom.
The judge had warned Zahir in a written order that his court appearances would be disallowed if he continued his outbursts and did not correct his behaviour.
Inspector Mustafa Kiani had also registered a case against Zahir at the Margalla police station under Sections 353/186 (interfering in the state function) and 325 (attempt to commit suicide) of the PPC.
At the hearing today, lawyer Akram Qureshi and Shehzad Qureshi represented Therapyworks employees; Sajjad Ahmed Bhatti and Malik Shahbaz Rasheed appeared as legal counsel of the household staff of Jaffer's house.
The counsel for Noor's family, Advocate Shah Khawar, was not present and when the judge questioned why, Advocate Babar Hayat Soomro said he was busy in the Supreme Court and asked the judge to initiate the day's proceedings without him.
Prosecutor Hasan Ali recorded Imran's statement. Imran informed the court that he had collected various pieces of evidence from the room such as the murder knife, guns, magazines, four cigarettes and made parcels before handing them over to the investigating officer. He also said that Noor's head was found beside the window.
Defence counsel Akram questioned him on his whereabouts and the time when he got alerted to the incident. "I was at home ... I was alerted at 9:40pm by the SP office," Imran responded, adding that he didn't know the name of the caller, but he was told that it was from the office of the superintendent of police.
He informed the court about other details such as the distance of his office from his house and the office's distance from the crime scene. He said he had reached the crime scene at around 10:30pm and eight to 10 people were present there including Senior Superintendent of Police Attaur Rehman and other police officials.
"All the items from the room were seized and given to the investigating officer. We remained at the crime scene for around three hours with the investigating officer. The fingerprints for the knife were taken but not for the gun and the knuckleduster," he said.
Another witness, Sikandar Hayat — an official from the Homicide Investigation Unit (HIU) in Islamabad's Aabpara area — told the court the distance between Aabpara and Kohsar, the area where Noor's body was found, was about eight to 10 kilometres.
Police had already reached the crime scene before officials from the HIU arrived, he said.
The witness added that the relevant investigation officer (IO) had information about the daily diary register (roznamcha) of the case at Kohsar police station. The IO, he said, had started the investigation immediately after reaching the crime scene.
"We (HIU officials) were not present at the crime scene between 9:30pm and 9:45pm," Hayat said, adding that he did not know who had called the crime scene inspector.
He told the court that crime scene in-charge Imran had reached the crime scene at the same time as HIU officials and Imran was at the location for two to three hours. He said officials had not called any citizen to the crime scene and expressed ignorance about any of the Therapyworks employees getting injured at the place of the incident.
"Blood was collected from all spots in the room," the witness said.
When asked whether a pistol, knife and knuckleduster were taken into custody by officials on July 20, the witness replied that the weapons were not confiscated on the said date.
At an earlier hearing on July 24, the IO had told the court of a jury magistrate that the weapons were recovered from Zahir Jaffer and taken into custody.
Sikandar Hayat also informed the court on Wednesday that a 9mm pistol was lying on a table at the crime scene.
The said pistol, along with the digital video recorder of the CCTV footage of the crime scene, was submitted to the court.
At the hearing, Advocate Babar Hayat Soomro, who represented Noor's family, and Advocate Akram Qureshi, representing Therapyworks employees, engaged in an argument when the former raised an objection to the sequence of documents in case copies submitted to the court.
"If he (Advocate Soomro) is raising objections over the documents that he submitted, he may remove the objections first and I will continue [my arguments ] later," said Advocate Qureshi.
At that, Advocate Soomro contended that raising objection was his right and no one could forcefully stop him from doing so.
Following the cross-examination of the witnesses' statement and lawyers' arguments, the court summoned Head Constable Jabir, computer operator Mudassir, ASI Dost Muhammad and Dr Shazia as witnesses at the next hearing on November 17.
The court also summoned the IO on Thursday (tomorrow) regarding the submission of the CCTV footage, directing that he and the public prosecutor may decide by when they would provide the footage to the defence counsel.
"The footage should be provided to the defence counsel at the earliest," the court ordered.
So far, the statements of nine witnesses have been recorded in the case.