LAHORE: Highlighting flaws in trial of the Indian spy Sarabeet Singh, his counsel Advocate Awais Sheikh demanded on Friday that the death row prisoner’s sentence be commuted to a life term.
Addressing a press conference here on Friday, Sheikh claimed that there were many flaws in Singh’s trial which the court had overlooked while deciding his appeals against the death sentence.
Sheikh complained that despite the presence of flaws, his client was not given the benefit of doubt as is the case with most local accused.
Elaborating on his argument, the advocate said that Singh’s case was one of mistaken identity and he was even presented by the intelligence agencies before the courts under the alias Manjeet Singh, who was originally accused for the terrorism acts.
Sheikh said the Lahore High Court, while deciding his appeal against the death sentence had ruled that “name makes no difference and it is enough that he has confessed his crime”. Presenting his statement recorded by the Special Judge, Sheikh submitted that Singh had never been brought before a magistrate and had never confessed his crime before any court of law or any investigation agency. He added Singh had been made to confess his crime before a television camera which has no legal value. A confessional document had not been signed by Singh, rather carried fake signatures, Sheikh said.
Giving details of a session with the judge, Sheikh said that his client had denied all charges leveled against him by the prosecution.
According to his statement, copy of which was also provided to the journalists, he said the belief that Singh had been prepared and trained by RAW for conducting terror activities in Pakistan, was unfounded. He also denied that Singh was given training for posing as a Muslim and being circumcised.
Sheikh also denied charges that his client had been trained to prepare bombs, plant explosives or had held a Pakistani national identity card bearing the pseudonym Khushi Muhammad s/o Allah Bakhsh. The advocate alleged that the card had been surreptitiously prepared by Major Abbas, a prosecution witness in the case.
In the statement, the counsel said that Singh had crossed the Indian border on August 29, 1990 with the intent to smuggle liquor. He denied the allegation that Singh had placed an explosives laden bag on a bus at the Lahore Railway Station on July 28, 1990. Asked about the when the bus carrying the bag reached Nizamabad Chowk and the resulting explosion killed one child and left 11 others injured, the advocate replied that Singh was in India at the time of the blast.
He denied the allegations that fake identification had been recovered from Singh at the time of his arrest, before adding that Singh had only been arrested with $800 dollars and two Peter Scott liquor bottles in his possession.
In a twist, Sheikh claimed that the prosecution’s story was concocted as Manjeet Singh, who had been originally accused for the terror charges, had been arrested on August 31, 1990, but was subsequently released by the military.
Sheikh alleged that Sarabjeet Singh had been treated discriminately by the Supreme Court while deciding on a review petition against his death sentence. He said Singh had been given two notices by the court but since the counsel did not appear before the court, the court dismissed the petition for non-prosecution and Singh’s death sentence was confirmed. In contrast, Sheikh said local cases involving the death penalties are not decided as ex-parte. He said normally between six to eight notices are served to the accused and in case their counsel fails to appear, the court issues a notice to the state seeking representation for the accused. This practice, the advocate claimed, was not adopted in Singh’s case.
He said not only Singh, but many other Indian and Pakistani prisoners are languishing in each other’s jails but civil society, NGOs, and human rights activists of both countries are silent over the matter. He demanded rights activists of both counties to come forward for this cause.
He said the governments of both countries’ are under pressure to release the other’s prisoners. He appealed to President Zardari to release Sarabjeet on August 14 as a good will gesture.
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