Delhi AAP leader and former journalist Ashish Khetan through his lawyers claimed in the Bombay High Court Wednesday that the witnesses of the German Bakery blast case he did a sting operation on had told him that they were “coerced” and “tutored” by the Maharashtra ATS to give testimony.
In addition, two of these witnesses through their counsel Arshad Shaikh said the ATS officials forced them to give statements at the time of accused Himayat Baig’s trial.
A sessions court had awarded death penalty to Baig for “masterminding” the explosion at the Pune eatery on February 13, 2010, which left 17 persons dead and several injured.
On Wednesday, the interveners started their arguments after the prosecution and defense finished their arguments for and against Baig’s death penalty. The interveners are Ashish Khetan and the two prosecution witnesses.
Senior counsel Mihir Desai said his client Khetan had carried out a sting operation on all four witnesses and one Abdul Raheem, who was not made a witness in the case although he was involved. “There is also a CD which is annexed to the application. It runs into 3-4 hours. A man who was not examined said the recovery of RDX has not happened,” said Desai.
The witnesses are Rehan Shaikh, Mohammad Zabiuddin Ansari, Shaikh Ghous, Shaikh Nazir Ateeq besides Abdul Raheem who was not examined. Each witness, Desai asserted, was forced to give statements. While Rehan, he said, had deposed in the trial talking about ATM transaction Ghaus had testified about the recovery of bags. Similarly others too gave their evidence which the prosecution relied on to nail Baig.
However, Desai said when Khetan carried out the sting pretending to be a researcher, all these men had a different story to tell. They all, he said, gave their statements under duress. “In a number of cases, even if 10-12 witnesses are tutored and two to three say they were tutored and the others don’t and if it is believed that what they are saying is correct and an investigation is required, then the entire evidence fails,” Desai said in his submission.
According to Khaitan’s application, Raheem told him that the RDX reportedly recovered was planted on Baig and the whole recovery was “stage-managed”.
Arshad, who is arguing for Ghaus and Rehan said though the duo had deposed as prosecution’s witnesses, they had done it in fear. Therefore, he said, they had come out now to tell the “real truth” as it was matter of life and death.
Ghaus, he said, was at that time running a school where Baig taught and lived. It was argued that when Baig disappeared for a few days, Ghaus panicked. After a few days, Maharashtra ATS officials came to his house, known as “White House”, and inquired about Baig and said Baig was wanted as he was a terrorist. Ghaus was picked up and the evidence was planted at his house, said the lawyer arguing the witness was later coerced and tutored to sign papers and testify in court reiterating the investigating agency’s version.