Avenfield reference: IHC permits Nawaz's counsel to witness statement recording

Maryam Nawaz, Capt Retd Safdar had also challenged the same


Rizwan Shehzad   February 08, 2018
Nawaz Sharif. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) has accepted two petitions of the Sharif family, seeking court’s permission to allow a representative and counsel at the High Commission for Pakistan in London during recording of two witnesses’ statements.

 

The statements will be recorded in the supplementary reference pertaining to Avenfield apartments. A division bench, comprising Justice Athar Minallah and Justice Miangul Hassan Aurangzeb, was of the view that the petitioners’ pleas were reasonable and that proceedings should ensure a fair trial.

The bench said that the counsel and representative should be allowed during the examination of witnesses – Robert W Radley, principal at the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory, and Akhtar Raja, principal at the Quist Solicitors.

“Let the examination take place in the presence of counsel and representative,” Justice Minallah remarked.

Court allows witnesses to testify via video link in Avenfield properties’ reference

The bench, however, observed that the defence counsel should not seek adjournment on the date fixed by the trial court for recording the statements after National Accountability Bureau (NAB) prosecutor Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi claimed the petitioners were trying to delay the reference proceeding.

During the hearing, Abbasi opposed the applications, saying that the petitioners did not seek relief before the accountability court. However, the bench posed a question if the NAB prosecutor wanted to deny fair trial.

Earlier, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif challenged the accountability court’s decision to record testimonies of the witnesses through the video link in the supplementary reference.

On Wednesday, Maryam and Capt (retired) Muhammad Safdar also challenged the order.

Court allows witnesses to testify via video link in Avenfield properties’ reference

The court heard both the petitions together. Since the NAB’s prosecutor was present in the court, when the petitions were taken up, he was asked to argue, which he did.

The couple, through their counsel Amjad Pervaiz, challenged the trial court’s order of February 2 before the IHC.

Accountability court Judge Muhammad Bashir had allowed NAB to record the statement of the witnesses through the video link at the High Commission in London.

NAB had said both the witnesses are in the United Kingdom and could not come to Pakistan due to security reasons and ‘heavy engagements’.

Radley, being a forensic examiner, had revealed that the type of font used in the trust deeds of two companies was Calibri, which was not commercially available before January31, 2007, and the documents were prepared and signed on an earlier date.

On the other hand, Raja is said to be a nephew of the head of the joint investigation team (JIT), Wajid Zia, which investigated the Panama leaks on the Supreme Court’s order.

Maryam was caught up in the fallout from the leaked Panama Papers over the use of Calibri font. Safdar was a witness to the documents.

In the petition, Pervaiz said that the reasons stated as an excuse or inability to attend the court is imaginary and not supported by any material. He has made the NAB Chairman and the judge respondents in the petition.

Avenfield reference: IHC permits Nawaz's counsel to witness statement recording

As per declaration attached with the expert report, he said, Radley declared that he may be required to attend the court for cross-examination, and he has not made his attendance conditional.  He added the reason for excuse to attend the court “is just an afterthought and prompted by mala fide intention”.

Pervaiz said that the option of forming a commission was available before the trial court, yet it proceeded to allow the examination through the video link without any legal justification.

While passing the impugned order, he said, the court did not keep in view even the minimum safeguards as to rule out the possibility of tutoring, coaching and prompting of the prosecution witnesses, and felt satisfied and contended with the examination of the witnesses through the video link in the high commission without any representation of either parties.

He added that the examination of witnesses through the video link while sitting abroad would cause prejudice to the petitioners and the atmosphere would be conducive for committing ‘perjury with impunity’ as the witnesses would not be subject to the jurisdiction of any court of law.

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The petitioners prayed to the court to set aside the order by declaring it illegal. Or in the alternative, they prayed, the impugned order may kindly be modified with direction for adequate representation of the petitioners, during the examination of the witnesses at the Pakistan High Commission, London.

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