Phone record was tampered with, claims defence: Pearl case
HYDERABAD- Defence counsels in Daniel Pearl kidnapping-cum-murder case here on Saturday contested the validity of print-outs of cellular phone connections saying that all these documents were tampered with by the prosecution and police in order to establish that the connections were used by the accused.
They claimed that in the print-outs, produced by the manager of a cellular phone company, Col (rtd) Usman, the telephone connections were not shown in the name of the present accused.
The court adjourned the matter for Tuesday (May 21) when it would hear the viewpoint of Barrister Jameel on the application of appointment of a commission to record the statement of Marine Pearl, wife of the slain Wall Street Journal reporter.
Advocate General Sindh, Raja Qureshi, told newsmen that the court would not work on Monday as the defence counsels were busy in Lahore in connection with their cases. The AG, who is also the chief prosecutor, raised objection on this as well.
He produced another witness Mahmood Iqbal Hashmi of the Webnet, a Karachi-based Internet service provider. Mr Hashmi produced six attachments alongwith his statements saying that he provides Internet facilities to different sub-servers through internal servers in order to facilitate them to send their electronic mails worldwide. He claimed that the US consulate at Karachi had requested him to find out as to from where such e-mails were transmitted.
Mr Hashmi added that he found that the e-mails in question were sent through the sub-server – Sheikh Naeem, another prosecution witness who has already been examined by the court. Mr Hashmi said that he had handed over one copy of the data to the US consulate and anther to the investigating police officials while yet another copy was being submitted with court for record. His cross-examination was still reserved by the defence lawyers.
The AG said that as per Sheikh Naeem’s statement, he provided e-mails facility to 60-70 users and the e-mails which were verified by Mehmood Iqbal Sheikh were transmitted from line No: 66. He deposed that the line was being used from telephone number and laptop of accused Fahad Naseem.
Referring to Salman Saqib who, the AG said, complained of medical problems every now and then a medical board conducted his examination and according to its report he was perfectly alright.
During cross-examination of Col (rtd) Usman, AG pointed out that according to the print-outs it was proved that the accused used the facility of cellular phone on a different time, date and duration and in complicity with others committed an offence for which they were being prosecuted. He, however, clarified that the manager of the phone company could not establish that they were actual users of cellular phone connections because the mobile phones could by used by anyone. He said that these phones could be obtained in the name of any other person on submission of photocopy of National Identity Card (NIC).
The AG said that on May 22 the Anti Terrorism Court (ATC)-3 Judge Arshad Noor Khan, former presiding judge of the Daniel Pearl case, would be examined and cross-examined alone.
To a query whether Sindh High Court (SHC) had allowed the judge to appear before the court, he said a written application had been addressed to the Registrar of the SHC and added that such applications were always allowed because it involved fair and transparent dispensation of justice in the case.
A junior defence lawyer, Mohsin Imam, told newsmen that Col (rtd) Usman agreed that from his office record, he could not establish as to who spoke to whom.
The defence counsels sought the certified copy of a CD, which was earlier produced by Sheikh Naeem. The court directed the reader of the court and the Senior Superintendent Police (SSP) of Crime Investigation Agency (CIA), Manzoor Mughal, to ensure the provision of CD to defence lawyers after getting it copied from an Internet service provider. The counsels maintained that this witness had no solid proof of the cellular phone connections having been obtained by the accused and that they were using them.
A Lahore-based defence counsel, Rai Basheer Ahmed, informed newsmen that print-outs of 17 telephone connections, which were in fact details of incoming and out-going calls of these connections, were tampered with because these print-outs were computerised and issued in English.
He said that he confronted these print-outs with prosecution witness in order to prove that the witness did not tamper them. He insisted that the prosecution and police had tampered with the report.
For instance, he said, the connection of Shamim Ahmed had been shown as Shamim Ahmed alias Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh whereas the connection of Shafi Muhammad Pathan, a resident of Mardan, was shown to be one being used by the slain journalist Daniel Pearl. He pointed out that names of Daniel Pearl and Ahmed Omar were written in Urdu.
The lawyer said that the cellular phone company did not fix the responsibility on the users for the misuse of phones and added that accused had nothing to do with these connections.
He maintained that the prosecution tried to establish that the connections were issued in the name of different people but the accused were their real users. He claimed that Col (rtd) Usman admitted that he had no record that present accused had obtained these 17 connections and that he was also unable to prove that accused were their real users. He pleaded that all these persons in whose names the connections were issued had not been joined in the investigation by police.
Rai Basheer raised objection when PW, Mahmood Iqbal Hashmi, produced the copy of data of e-mails to the court. The counsel said that police did not include this data in the case-file thus it could not be made part of the case now.
The court said it would decide this point at the time of final arguments. It allowed brother of Fahad Naseem to meet the detainee. Other relatives of the accused would be allowed an interview with him during the course of break of court. This order was passed on an application filed by Rai Basheer Ahmed.
He also expressed dissatisfaction over reports of medical board that examined Salman Saqib. He claimed that he had authentic reports of Agha Khan Hospital and requested the court to get the accused re-examined and obtain tests from the laboratories of the same hospital.