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Lawyer narrates how Sarabjit got a raw deal in Pak courts

Source: PTI
February 28, 2013 13:49 IST
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The conviction and imprisonment of Sarabjit Singh, an Indian on death row in a Pakistani jail for alleged involvement in a string of bomb attacks, was ‘an extraordinary miscarriage of justice’, his lawyer has said in a new book.

Sarabjit was sentenced to death in 1990 after being convicted of alleged involvement in bombing in Lahore and Faisalabad that killed 14 people.

Awais Sheikh's book Sarabjit Singh: A Case of Mistaken Identity will be launched at the Lahore Press Club on Friday, explaining why he believes Singh's conviction and imprisonment is "an extraordinary miscarriage of justice".

In his 199-page book, Sheikh states that his client accidentally crossed the border into Pakistan and was then set up to take the fall for the bombings, The Express Tribune reported on Thursday.

The book details several flaws in the investigation, trial and appeals in Sarabjit's case.

The book also includes letters written by Sarabjit to his family in India and to the Indian and Pakistani governments seeking his release.

Sheikh writes that Singh did not get due process, that fundamental legal issues were not addressed, and that the investigation agency introduced false witnesses.

"Sarabjit has certainly been a victim of unfair conviction that has caused him to be in prison for his entire adult life," he writes.

The FIR in the case, registered on the complaint of then Lahore Commissioner Shahid Rafi, names Manjit Singh, son of Mehanga Singh, as the bomber.

Sheikh points out that his client is Sarabjit Singh, son of Salakhan Singh. Sarabjit was produced in a magistrate's court by a Military Intelligence officer on September 8, 1990.

The magistrate proceeded with the case of Manjit Singh and "did not listen to Sarabjit, who repeatedly said that he was not Manjit Singh. He did not bother to confirm and verify the name of the accused produced in his court," the book states.

Having failed to resolve the question of identity, Sheikh writes: "All subsequent proceedings in this case are illegal and against the facts of the case."

During his trial, Sarabjit had no access to counsel and was unable to contact his family in India and tell them of his arrest.

The Pakistan government failed to pass on news of his arrest to his family, which was a violation of international law.

Sheikh writes that Sarabjit's supposed confession, the basis for his conviction, did not have his signature or thumb print.

In his statement to the judge, Sarabjit denied the charges and said Manjit Singh had been arrested and subsequently let off, and he had been presented as a "substitute".

The sole witness in the case, Shaukat Ali, stated that he had been forced to testify against Sarabjit, Sheikh writes.

In a letter, Sarabjit wrote that after he was arrested, he was produced before a Major Ghulam Abbas.

"He said abruptly, 'You are Manjit Singh.' I said no. He nodded to the soldier. The soldiers started beating me… My cries and laments fell on deaf ears. At last I was turned into Manjit Singh and, though I was not an accused, was convicted of the bomb blasts."

Sarabjit criticised the judge in another letter.

"All the evidence recorded and the cross-questioning carried out were in my favour. The judge of the terrorism court, Aslam Shami, nullified the cross-questions."

In another letter, Sarabjit writes: "The judges in Pakistan only see that such and such a person has been accused by the police and rule, therefore, that he must be the culprit. They don’t go into the statements of the witnesses nor see the exploitation of the police.

"The judges, I have seen, bow easily to any political pressure. Instead of giving justice they end up being part of the game…in their hearts they are afraid of the power of the police. The police and judiciary often work in the same way.

"If there happens to be a government case against a person, then only Allah, 'Bhagwan, Wahe guru' can save the person."

In yet another letter, Sarabjit complains about his treatment in jail.

"I was mentally tortured in 2006-07. My pen and paper and other things were snatched. Even now they turn to old tricks. The man in the cell next to me, Karpal Singh, is a total nuisance. He gives false information about me to the jailors."

Citing a Supreme Court judgement, Sheikh writes that as Singh has spent 22 years in solitary confinement in jail, his sentence should be commuted to life imprisonment.

"I am hopeful that the President will consider the clemency appeals filed," he writes.

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