Gujarat updates

February 22, 2005 | Comments Off on Gujarat updates

The Supreme Court has given Zahira Sheikh, the key witness in the Best Bakery retrial, four weeks to submit details about her financial assets. She has been accused of accepting bribes to change her testimony about the 2002 Gujarat pogroms. Although she has changed her testimony twice, she denies accepting any bribes.

In December, prosecution lawyers alleged Zahira Sheikh and her sister Saira Sheikh were using a luxury car far beyond their income.

Last month, the Supreme Court appointed an independent committee to investigate allegations of bribery in the case.

On Monday the court gave the committee three more months to complete its investigations.

In June 2003, all of the accused in the case were aquitted after Zahira Sheikh and other witnesses withdrew their evidence. Later, she said that she withdrew her evidence because of threats from local politicians, and so the Supreme Court ordered a retrial. But she again changed her story, saying that rights groups had pressured her in to making allegations against the police.

In the case of the gang rape of Bilkis Yakub Rasool, the Supreme Court has determined that her testimony and all evidence connected with her will be recorded in camera.

R. K. Shah, the special public prosecutor, said the Supreme Court had ruled that all rape cases must be held in camera and this was no exception. Even the name of the victim must not be mentioned publicly.

On March 3, 2002, Bilkis who was five months pregnant and 16 others reached Chapparwad village in Dahod district of Gujarat, when an armed mob attacked them. She was gang-raped along with other women in the group. Eight persons were killed and six missing. Only Bilkis and two others survived the attack.

Dr. Sangita Prasad, one of the defendents in the case, examined Bilkis afer the rape and is accused of helping the attackers by making evidence disappear. Her trial was separated last year after she was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. Her counsel now says that she is unfit to undergo trial, and that it is important to receive her instructions before starting the trial.


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