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Sohrabuddin Sheikh case witness wants verdict stayed, says many not allowed to depose

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Rizwana Khan, the wife of Azam Khan, an alleged former aide of Sohrabuddin Sheikh, has said that their entire family had been threatened.

New Delhi: A prosecution witness in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case has moved the Bombay High Court for a stay on the announcement of the verdict by a CBI special court in Mumbai.

The case involves the alleged fake encounter of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and his wife Kausarbi in November 2005, days after they were reportedly abducted by a joint team of Gujarat and Rajasthan police. The court, which recently reserved its verdict on the matter, is likely to pronounce the judgment on 21 December.

In her petition to the Bombay High Court, Rizwana Khan has claimed that the trial has been closed post-haste, with the testimony of many material witnesses not recorded at all.

The failure to record the testimonies, she said, weakens the case. “The case, as it is, amounts to a mistrial,” she added.

The CBI chargesheet names more than 500 people, but only the testimony of 210 has been recorded, she alleged. Of these, 92 have turned hostile.

The judgment, she has pled, should be stayed till all the material witnesses have deposed.

Also read: Court asks why Sohrabuddin probe was silent on Tulsiram Prajapati till CBI took over

For her husband

Rizwana said she had filed the plea on behalf of her husband Azam Khan, also a prosecution witness in the case, adding that the entire family had been threatened and pressured to influence their deposition in court.

On 3 November, Azam Khan had deposed in court that he was a member of the same gang as Sohrabuddin.

He claimed Tulsiram Prajapati, an aide of Sheikh believed to have been killed in another fake encounter in 2006, had killed Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya in 2003 on Sheikh’s orders. The murder, Khan had claimed, had driven him to leave the gang.

However, Rizwana has claimed in her petition that Khan had shared more information with the magistrate that the prosecution failed to present during the trial.

She alleged that Khan knew of a purported extortion racket run by IPS officer Abhay Chudasama, for which the latter had employed Sheikh. While Chudasama kept 75 per cent of the profits, she said, Sohrabuddin got 25 per cent.

Through Sheikh, she alleged, Chudasama also orchestrated the December 2004 attack on two realty promoters in Ahmedabad.

“When Sohrabuddin Sheikh went against the wishes of Abhay Chudasama, D.G. Vanzara [both of whom have been discharged in the case] and other officers involved in this [extortion] enterprise, he was killed in a conspiracy which had the involvement of politicians and police officers from Gujarat and Rajasthan,” the plea states.

Sohrabuddin, she added, was killed due to pressure from higher-ups in the Gujarat government as well as the then Rajasthan home minister.

Rizwana also alleged that Khan was subjected to almost 20 days of “unrelenting torture” by Udaipur police before being brought to court on 3 November, including on that very morning.

Khan, a material witness in this matter, has already testified that Sheikh’s encounter was fake and that Prajapati, a witness, also killed in a fake encounter to cover it up.

Rizwana has stated in the plea that all Khan wanted was the opportunity to record his true statements before court under protection.

She said that Khan, who is currently behind bars in Udaipur, had now gathered courage to come forward and reiterate his statement only after he was accorded protection last month on orders of the Rajasthan High Court.

Also read: Amit Shah key conspirator in Sohrabuddin encounter, investigating officer tells court

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