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Zehraunissa wants Best Bakery case reopened in Mumbai

Syed Firdaus Ashraf in Mumbai | July 07, 2003 21:30 IST

Zehraunissa Shaikh, 19, the key eyewitness in the Best Bakery murder case in Vadodara, on Monday said she will reopen the case against all the accused in the Mumbai high court.

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The move comes soon after the Gujarat sessions court acquitted 21 people, who were accused in the rioting and killing of 12 people inside the bakery on March 1, 2002.

During the trial, 35 of the 60 witnesses, including Zehraunissa, retracted statements they had made to police identifying the accused in the court.

Following the retraction, Additional Sessions Judge Hemantsinh U Mahida acquitted all the accused citing lack of evidence.

"I was threatened by Bharatiya Janata Party leader Madhu Shrivastava. He told me that if I say the truth in the court my mother and other family members would be killed. So, I lied in the court because of fear and these accused were set off free," Zehraunissa told the press in Mumbai

"I want justice. There was no one in Vadodra to fight my case. The lawyer's were demanding Rs 400,000 from me to fight the case in Vadodra and I had no money to pay. Moreover, Shrivastava used to call me regularly over the phone and threatened me. He also told me that everyone in the court are his men and nobody will believe me. And therefore under pressure I lied," she said.

Zehraunissa Shaikh with mother. Photo: Deepak SalviHer case has been taken by a Non Governmental Organisation, Citizens for Justice and Peace. The NGO has people like Javed Akhtar, the noted lyricist, adman Alque Padamese and Teesta Setalvad, joint editor of Communalism Combat.

"Zehra has lost her family members and the criminals are roaming freely. Nobody has been booked under Prevention of Terrorism Act. The whole attitude of the Narendra Modi government is so cynical. It is shocking to see that this is happening in a civilised society," said Javed Akhtar.

Zehra, her mother, Sehrunissa and two brothers, Naeemullah and Nafeesullah, have moved base to Mumbai.

Asked if they feel the justice would be done to Zehra's family considering that Srikrishna Commission report was never implemented in Maharashtra and most of the riots accused in Mumbai riots of 1992-93 were roaming free, Teesta said, "We have to be hopeful. We have great faith in judiciary. Moreover, unlike Mumbai the situation is so bad in Gujarat that two communities are completely alienated from each other."

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