Noor murder case: Counsel says Therapy Works staffers be given 'benefit of doubt' as charges not proved
The counsel for Therapy Works' chief executive officer (CEO), who and his five employees are co-accused in the Noor Mukadam murder, presented his final arguments before a sessions court in Islamabad on Monday, praying that staffers of the counselling and psychotherapy facility be given "the benefit of the doubt" as the prosecution had failed prove the allegations levelled against them.
At today's hearing, the counsels for the five Therapy Works employees and primary accused Zahir Jaffer's mother, Asmat Adamjee, who has also been indicted in the case, also completed their arguments and requested the court for their clients' acquittal.
The proceedings, presided over by Additional Sessions Judge Ata Rabbani, began with the counsel for the Therapy Works' employees presenting his arguments.
Lawyer Shahzad Qureshi told the court that he was representing Amjad Mahmood, Dilip Kumar, Abdul Haq, Wamiq Riaz and Samar Abbas, all Therapy Works employees who were accused of removing evidence.
He said his clients had reached the crime scene at 8pm on July 20, 2021, when Noor was found dead at Zahir's house.
"It is evident from the DVR (digital video recorder) footage that they could have have easily left [the crime scene], but they stayed," he further argued, adding that his clients were involved in the case in light of Zahir's statement given to police. "But Article 38 [of the Constitution] says that there is no value of the statement given to police."
Shahzad contended that besides Therapy Works' employees, three other persons were also present at the crime scene and they, too, could have removed evidence.
"There is an accusation against [my clients] of removing evidence, but what evidence was removed?"
He maintained that his clients had not removed any evidence from the crime scene and police had also said that a pistol, knife and other items were recovered from Zahir's residence.
Shahzad further said his clients had caught Zahir and handed him over to police, which could be seen in the DVR footage.
Speaking about Therapy Works' employee Amjad, who was said to have been injured by Zahir on the day of the incident, the lawyer said police had reached the crime scene 25 minutes after he was injured.
He prayed the court to acquit his clients.
After Shahzad, Therapy Works CEO Tahir Zahoor's counsel, Akram Qureshi, presented his arguments, contending that police had accused his client of trying to hide evidence but nothing to this end had surfaced during the investigation.
"It did not emerge during the investigation that Therapy Works' employees removed any evidence from the crime scene."
Moreover, he said, according to police, they had reached the crime scene by 9:20pm on July 20. "But no one ever said anything about who had informed the police."
Therapy Works' employees, on the other hand, had informed the police, he claimed, contesting the accusation that had they gone to the crime scene to remove evidence. "Would Zahir have attacked them with a knife if they were removing evidence?" he asked.
"They were there for two hours and it has not been proved that any evidence was removed from the crime scene during this duration," Akram said.
He said the prosecution did not have any evidence against his client except for his call detail records, but according to a Supreme Court judgement, it could not be considered a concrete piece of evidence without a transcript.
"There was no transcript with the call detail records submitted by the prosecution," he contended.
The lawyer also read out the conversation that took place between the Therapy Works' CEO, Zahoor, and Zahir's father, Zakir Jaffer, on July 20 last year.
He said Zahoor had received a message that read "call me" at 7:04pm on July 20, adding that Zakir had sent the message as Zahoor was not in Islamabad at the time and the former was unable to reach him through a call. The lawyer further told the court that Zakir sent two subsequent messages to Zahoor in which he told him that "Dr Irum has been contacted for medical intervention" and Zahir "needs to be admitted immediately".
"Contact being established with someone is not a crime," he argued.
Completing his arguments, the lawyer said no witness had testified against Therapy Works' employees and the prosecution had failed to prove the allegations levelled against them.
"The benefit of the doubt goes to Therapy Works' employees," he concluded.
Following that, Adamjee's counsel, Asad Jamal presented his arguments, saying that during the entire investigation, it was not revealed who had informed police about the murder.
He further said, "Had witnesses been only presented in the court as witnesses, the case would have [proceeded] in a better manner. But police expanded the scope of the investigation and involved more people."
The lawyer added that no data was acquired of a phone conversation that had taken place between Zakir and Noor's father, Shaukat Mukadam.
"Neither was WhatsApp approached for the data," he said, adding that mobile phone services companies could also have been approached for data, but the investigating officer did not even do that.
Moreover, he argued, had Zahir's parents intended to hide the crime, they would not have reached Islamabad from Karachi taking the first available flight after being informed of the incident. "And neither would they have appeared before police right after reaching [Islamabad]."
Saying that police had failed to prove the allegations levelled against his client, he requested the court for her acquittal.
After that, the counsel for Noor's father, who is the complainant in the case, presented his arguments.
Shaukat's lawyer, Shah Khawar, told the court that Zahir's photogrammetric test matched with the CCTV footage.
He said the duration between Noor entering Zahir's house on July 18 and her body being found at his residence on July 20 was 38 hours. "She had not taken any luggage with her," he said.
Contesting an earlier claim by Zahir that Noor had insisted on holding a party at his house, the lawyer said no party was organised at his residence.
"There is no footage of any such party."
He also refuted Zahir's claim that Noor was killed over honour, terming it "fictitious".
The lawyer said Zahir had confessed to killing Noor and Therapy Works' employees had also revealed that by the time they were asked to reach the crime scene, the murder had been committed.
He said the CCTV footage showed that gatekeeper Iftikhar, also a co-accused in the case, did not let Noor leave Zahir's house and had he let her step outside, the murder could have been prevented.
The lawyer told the court that Noor, while trying to escape to save her life, had not cared about the injuries she had sustained in process after falling on a grill.
"But Zahir caught her and later murdered her," he said.
He contended that statements by the co-accused also showed they were admitting that Zahir had committed the murder.
The hearing was adjourned after Khawar's arguments, which will continue at the next hearing scheduled for tomorrow.
Noor, 27, was found murdered at a residence in the capital's upscale Sector F-7/4 on July 20 last year. A first information report (FIR) 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, who is a retired diplomat.
After the FIR was registered in the murder case, Zahir's parents and household staff were arrested on July 24 over allegations of "hiding evidence and being complicit in the crime". They were made a part of the investigation based on Noor's father's statement.
In his complaint, Shaukat had stated that he had gone to Rawalpindi on July 19 to buy a goat for Eidul Azha, while his wife had gone out to pick up clothes from her tailor. When he had returned home in the evening, the couple found their daughter Noor absent from their house in Islamabad.
They had found her cellphone number switched off and started a search for her. Sometime later, Noor had called her parents to inform them that she was travelling to Lahore with some friends and would return in a day or two, according to the FIR.
The complainant said he had later received a call from Zahir, whose family were their acquaintances. The suspect had informed Shaukat that Noor was not with him, the FIR said.
At around 10pm on July 20, the victim's father had received a call from Kohsar police station, informing him that Noor had been murdered.
Police had subsequently taken the complainant to Zahir's house in Sector F-7/4 where he discovered that his "daughter has been brutally murdered with a sharp-edged weapon and beheaded", according to the FIR.
Shaukat, who identified his daughter's body, has sought the maximum punishment under the law against Zahir for allegedly murdering his daughter.
Police later said that Zahir had confessed to killing Noor while his DNA test and fingerprints also showed his involvement in the murder.
Six officials of Therapy Works, whose employees had visited the site of the murder before police, were also nominated in the case and were indicted with six others, including Zahir Jaffer's parents, in October.