The female complainant in the Islamabad couple sexual harassment case, who had last week backtracked from her allegations of torture and sexual abuse by a gang, reiterated in the trial court on Wednesday the retraction of her statement and urged the court to grant her permanent exemption in the case.
The case had surfaced when a video of four persons holding a couple at gunpoint, forcing them to strip and then beating them up had gone viral on social media last year in July.
Initially, an FIR was registered under section 341 (punishment for wrongful restraint), 354A (assault or use of criminal force against woman and stripping her of her clothes), 506 (ii) (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 509 (word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) of Pakistan Penal Code. Later, sections pertaining to rape, sexual abuse, extortion, and wrongful confinement were also included in the FIR.
In September, charges were framed against the primary accused, Usman Mirza, and co-accused Hafiz Ataur Rehman, Adaras Qayyum Butt, Rehan, Umar Bilal Marwat, Mohib Bangash and Farhan Shaheen.
On Jan 11, in a surprising turn of events, the female victim had retracted her statement against the accused and informed the trial court that she did not wish to pursue the case.
A day later, Parliamentary Secretary for Law Maleeka Bokhari had announced that the state would pursue the Islamabad couple harassment case "irrespective of recent developments relating to victim's testimony".
When the hearing of the case resumed today with Additional District and Sessions Judge Atta Rabbani in the chair, the girl complained that she was being pressured repeatedly to pursue the case. "I have given the statement that I don't know anyone," she said.
At another point in the hearing, prosecutor Rana Hasan Abbas cross-examined the male victim and asked him to narrate the background of the incident.
"I cannot recall the details of the incident and also don't remember what shirt I was wearing that day," the victim said in response to a query from the prosecutor.
At this, the public prosecutor requested the court to play the video of the incident in the courtroom. The judge granted the request.
Later, Sher Afzal, counsel for one of the suspects, Marwat, urged the court to replay the footage as he sought to cross-examine the male victim, saying he wanted to see the face of the man. The video was played again at his request.
Meanwhile, the girl told the judge that she was not in the video that was circulated on social media, and also rejected allegations to have sought Rs10 million from one of the suspects Marwat.
She said police had obtained her fingerprints and signatures on a blank paper multiple times. The counsel for Marwat asked whether she had signed the papers under duress. To this, she responded: "I don't know."
Her Lawyer Arbab Alam Abbas interjected and requested the court to bar the defendant from repeating questions that had already been answered during previous hearings.
The woman said was engaged to the man — the other victim seen in the video — adding that they tied the knot after the video surfaced.
The suspect's lawyer told the girl that an FIA expert had declared the video genuine and also verified that the face seen and voice heard in the video was hers. In response, the girl said: "There are seven people of the same face in this world."
At this, the lawyer wondered that even if that were true, how were the voices an exact match as well.
The suspect's counsel then asked the male victim as to where he was slapped the most during the torture.
"I do not want to answer this," the victim responded. The lawyer urged the court to compel the witness to answer "or consider his refusal as the committing of the crime".
He insisted that he did not know the suspects, also stressing that he had not accepted any money to change his statement.
The lawyer asked why he had not informed the police about the torture he and his fiancée suffered.
"Nothing of that sort happened to us," he answered.
Following the conclusion of the defence counsel's cross-examination of the plaintiffs, the hearing was adjourned till Jan 25. In the next hearing, the defendants' counsels will cross-examine an investigation officer of the case.