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Cleric granted bail in blasphemy case

October 11, 2012

ISLAMABAD, Oct 11: District and Sessions Judge Islamabad (west) Raja Jawad Abbas Hassan on Thursday granted bail to Khalid Jadoon, the prayer leader of Mehra Jaffer mosque, in the blasphemy case against Rs0.2 million surety bonds.

After the court order, District Attorney Mehfooz Paracha, who supported the bail plea, told Dawn that the cleric can now apply for acquittal from the case.

He said the police had failed to produce evidence against the cleric and the witnesses also informed the court that the investigation officer had misquoted them as they never recorded any statement against Mr Jadoon.

“There were certain lacunas in the process of the investigation and in recording the statement of the witnesses in this case,” said the attorney. He added: “The statement of Hafiz Mohammad Zubair, a prosecution witness, was also self-contradictory. On the one hand, he claimed that he had tried to stop the cleric from including the pages of the holy Quran in the evidence, but on the other he also admitted that he had heard from the three other witnesses that the cleric had altered the evidence.”

The three witnesses later informed the court that the statements attributed to them were fake and the police had prepared them on its own, he added.

Syed Wajid Ali Gillani, the counsel for the cleric, while talking to this reporter, said he would file an application with the trial court for the acquittal of his client. “We can also move the Islamabad High Court seeking quashment of the FIR and the interim challan of the case in which my client has been declared as an accused.”

He expressed the hope that the cleric would get rid of the case because of the very weak evidence against him. On the basis of the available evidence, it would be difficult for the prosecution to manage his indictment, he remarked.

Tahir Naveed Chaudhry, a member of the Punjab Assembly, who is also representing the Christian girl in the blasphemy case, added: “The acquittal of Jadoon is also good for the accused girl”

According to the police challan, the main accused in the case is the cleric, not the Christian girl, because the evidence against the latter is distrustful, he pointed out.

He was hopeful about the acquittal of the Christian girl after the recent development. He observed: “When because of the weak evidence, the court is giving relief to the main accused person and there is also a chance of his acquittal as well, the minor girl will also be acquitted as she is comparatively at a better position to defend herself.”

During the hearing before the district and sessions judge, Advocate Gillani contended that the police had fabricated a false story against the cleric as he had never disrespected the pages of the holy Quran.

He said the investigation officer, Munir Jaffery, had maneuvered the blasphemy case on the directions of his ‘superiors’.

He also claimed that the statement of Hafiz Zubair, one of prosecution witnesses, could not be used as an evidence against his client as he was not cross-examined. “Under Section 164 of the CrPC (Criminal Procedure Code), the statement of a witness entails no legal value unless he is cross-examined by the defence counsel,” he contended.

Rao Abdul Rahim, the counsel for Malik Ummad, the complainant in the blasphemy case, told the court that the cleric was not nominated in the FIR by his client.

He said the police might have included the pages of the holy Quran in the evidence to make a case against the cleric and to defuse the situation.

According to the interim challan submitted to the court by the police, the residents of Mehra Jaffer on August 16, 2012, brought ashes of some burnt pages of a prayer book in two shopping bags to the prayer leader, Jadoon.

The challan said the imam intentionally included two pages of the holy Quran in one of the shopping bags in the presence of the witnesses. The challan said Jadoon had prepared the fake statement against the Christian girl and later signed some legal documents related to the evidence as a prosecution witness.

The cleric was arrested on September 1 after a witness - Hafiz Zubair - recorded his statement before the assistant commissioner of Islamabad, Shazia Qazi, and accused him of fabricating the evidence against the Christian girl.

The court on September 7 accepted the bail plea of the girl against Rs1 million surety bonds after the investigation officer said there was no direct evidence linking her with the offence.