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Verdict on Dr Shakil`s bail, re-trial plea on 18th

Bureau Report 2013-12-10
PESHAWAR, Dec 9: The Federally Administered Tribal Areas Tribunal on Monday reserved judgment in surgeon Dr Shakil Afridi`s petition for immediate release on bail and fresh trial by the political agent of Khyber Agency on the charge of supporting a proscribed militant organisation in Bara tehsil.

The tribunal comprising Chairman Shah Wali Khan and members Pir Fida and Akbar Khan announced on the conclusion of arguments by the defence and the prosecution that it would give the verdict in the case on Dec 18.

Dr Shakil, who was taken into custody in May 2011 on suspicion of helping the American CIA track down Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden through a fake vaccination campaign, has challenged an order of the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) commissioner to set aside his (petitioner) earlier conviction by an assistant political agent and remand the case back to the political agent to weigh afresh the arguments of both the parties under law and local rewaj (customs).

The petitioner, who is in solitary confinement in the Peshawar Central Prison, said the FCR commissioner`s order lacked clarity sot that the tribunal should issue clear instructions for the political agent/sessions judge.

The then FCR commissioner, Sahibzada Mohammad Anees, had partially allowed his appeal on Aug 29, 2013, by setting aside his conviction by the APA and remanded the case to the polit-ical agent.

The APA/additional district magistrate convicted Dr Shakil on May 23, 2012 on charges of being involved in anti-state activities by supporting the Barabased Lashkar-i-Islam, and sentenced him on different counts to a total of 33 years imprisonment.Samiullah Afridi and Qamar Nadeem Afridi, lawyers for the petitioner, said the commissioner had passed a vague order as they were given impression that re-trial would be conducted by the political agent as a session judge and the witnesses and jirga members would be again produced and examined in presence of the petitioner.

However, they said the political agent had only been conducting fresh arguments in the case which was not fair.

They said under the law, it was the right of every accused to defend himself through lawyer and cross examine witnesses but in the present case, neither an opportunity of defence nor the right of cross examination was given to him.

The lawyers said as the case had been remanded back to the PA to hear it as a sessions judge, he was bound by the law to make a fresh order of reference and refer the case to a new jirga (council of elders) with the consent of the petitioner.

They said the trial court should summon the jirga members as well as the witnesses in the presence of petitioner and that after fulfilling legal formalities, it should pass a just and reasonable order.

Mr Samiullah said the Constitution guaranteed fair trial for accused persons and instant case the petitioner was de-prived of that order.

He also questioned the commissioner`s ruling that the petitioner should not be released on bail, and said the petitioner was entitled to be set free on bail.

The lawyer also requested the tribunal to order re-trial of the petitioner inside the prison for security reasons.

State prosecutor Iqbal Durrani said the petition was not maintainable.

He said the petitioner had been accepting certain parts of the commissioner`s order which went in his favour and had been challenging certain portions which were against him.

The state prosecutor said the commissioner`s order was not suffering from any error or defect and so there was no valid ground available with the petitioner.

Meanwhile, Jamil Afridi, brother of Dr Shakil, said he had not been expecting justice for his brother from the government as well as the courts.

He told reporters that his brother was made a scapegoat as several influential persons were involved in the vaccination programme but none of them had been arrested.

Mr Jamil said he was allowed to meet his brother last time on Aug 27 but thereafter, the government had placed restrictions on his meeting with him.

He said his brother had not conducted any polio vaccination campaign and that hepatitis vaccination was part of a prime minister`s programme.

`Now, the administration has registered a fake murder case against Dr Shakil and wants to implicate him in the death of a patient,` he said.