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'Judge admitted TV interview as evidence'

'Judge admitted TV interview as evidence'

Author: Anjali Mody
Publication: The Hindu
Date: December 22, 2002
URL: http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/2002/12/22/stories/2002122204190800.htm

In the course of the December 13 Parliament attack trial, issues of admissibility of certain types of evidence that could benefit some accused were raised. The decision on whether such evidence could or could not be admitted was to be decided by the Judge, S.N. Dhingra.

One such piece of evidence was an interview given by Mohammed Afzal to the Aaj Tak news channel while he was in police custody and which contained a reference to S.A.R. Geelani. The videotape was played in court. A transcript of the interview:

Aaj Tak: Your friend Geelani. Some literature pertaining to Osama bin Laden was found with him. Does he support Laden?

Mohammed Afzal: Who? Geelani? Basically Geelani is a professor. I never shared information about this with him. Meaning, I knew him as a professor. That's it. I never shared any information with him. But one day he told me: `Afzal, you are up to some mischief'. That day I came to know that he knew something about me but not from me; he actually knows this from Shaukat. So then to keep him at bay I told him that there were two Pakistanis with me, who I had brought from Kashmir. They basically want to go to UAE; so to keep him at bay, I told him this much."

Mr. Justice Dhingra, in his judgment, accepted this evidence as admissable and gave this interpretation: "Counsel for the accused relied upon the testimony of the Defence Witness 4, Shams Tahir Khan, and DW7, Manish Pandey. Shams Tahir Khan and Manish Pandey are the two reporters who were present when the police produced the accused, Mohammed Afzal, before the media and allowed them to interview him. Afzal made a confession to the media at that time.

"The confession made by the accused when he was in police custody is not admissible. However, the co-accused, Geelani, wants to rely upon this confession to show that Afzal had exonerated him in the interview. Shams Tahir Khan had stated that when he asked a question about Geelani to Afzal, ACP Rajbir Singh was there and Afzal answered the question but the ACP shouted at him that he was not to say anything about Geelani.

"The answer which has been given by Afzal in respect of Geelani is in tape, which is exhibit DW4/A. The answer is that Geelani had doubted the intention of Afzal and made a query to Afzal. Afzal learnt that Geelani had come to know something and that it was Shuakat who had told Geelani.

"It is settled law that in a conspiracy, only those conspirators are not liable who enter the conspiracy in the beginning. Conspirators may keep on coming and leaving the conspiracy, still each conspirator would be equally liable for the conspiracy.

"In this case, the entire circumstances proved by prosecution show that initially it was the accused Afzal who was baptised by Ghazi Baba. He in turn baptised Shaukat. Shaukat was close to Geelani and it is Shaukat who baptised Geelani for the mission. Ultimately all got together into this conspiracy; that is the reason Afzal thought that Geelani had learnt about his activities from Shaukat. But thereafter they all started working together for the five Pakistan terrorists. Afzal has not stated the time when the knowledge was gained by Geelani. If it had been mere learning and mere knowledge of the accused Gilani, he would not have made a call to the accused Shaukat on midnight of December 12 and December 13, 2001."

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