A special Anti-Terrorism Court in Faisalabad on Tuesday deferred criminal proceedings on the Gojra carnage for a year. It also released on bail the remaining suspects nominated responsible for the tragedy for want of evidence and continuous absence of complainants and eyewitnesses.
On July 31 2009, a Christian Colony was set ablaze by a mob, resulting in the death of eight Christians. Sixty houses were also set on fire. So far, none of the accused have been convicted.
The order was announced by Justice Chaudhry Muneer Ahmed of Anti Terrorism Court-II Faisalabad. According to court prosecutors, two applications were moved before the court, each from the accused and prosecutors, suggesting the issuance of a stay order on the case.
During the inquiry, 185 witnesses submitted written statements but five witnesses had already left the country.
Two cases had been registered in the aftermath of the Gojra incident.
In the first case, 70 people were nominated by the complainant of which 68 had been granted bail before arrest by the court. The remaining two – Atif alias Neeru and Ghulam Abbas – were detained.
Atif and Abbas’ lawyers pleaded for cancellation of the case on grounds of complainants’ failure to pursue the case on Tuesday.
The lawyers filed an application, claiming that the complainant and eyewitnesses are now settled abroad and not appearing in the case.
The court ordered to close the case for one year and ordered the release of Abbas and Atif on surety bonds worth Rs100,000 each.
The court observed that “prosecution has filed an application stating that the government is making efforts to bring back the complainant, the three injured and the witness, assuring their protection … it is expected that the attendance of the said witness will be procured within two to three months.”
The accused and the prosecution filed similar pleas in the second case.
The court, asking the prosecution to ‘make strenuous efforts to bring the witnesses to court … within one year,’ ordered the release on bail of the three accused.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 8th, 2011.