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Row over graphic questions leads to gang-rape case

By Ishaq Tanoli
KARACHI: A forceful objection raised by the prosecution to somewhat graphic questions put by counsel for the defence to a teenage rape victim in a packed courtroom on Wednesday led to an altercation between the lawyers, forcing the court to adjourn the hearing to April 7.
The court was conducting the trial of four men — Shahban Sheikh, Sheikh Ehsan, Roshan Aleem and Kaleemullah — who were allegedly involved in the gang-rape of the victim girl, Kainat Soomro, on January 10, 2007 in Mehar Town of District Dadu.
When the hearing began before Additional District and Sessions Judge Nizar Ali Khawaja on Wednesday, Special Public Prosecutor Abdul Maroof objected to the presence of a number of people in the courtroom and requested the court to order all irrelevant persons to leave the courtroom.
However, the defence counsel objected to the prosecution plea and argued that the law did not contain any provision which barred any citizen from witnessing the hearing of a case in an open court.
The judge overruled the special public prosecutor’s objection and asked the defence counsel to proceed with the cross-examination of the gang-rape victim. All the four accused were present in the courtroom.
When the defence counsel asked the victim girl to present a graphic account of the gang-rape, the special public prosecutor and some other lawyers, who were present in the courtroom to assist the prosecution side, leapt to their feet and objected to the questions.
An exchange of hot words took place between the counsel for the prosecution and the defence, forcing the judge to intervene and berate both sides for hindering the hearing of the case.
The judge warned both sides that due to their non-cooperation, he would have no option but to send the case back to the Sindh High Court.
However, the defence and prosecution counsel maintained that they had complete faith in the court and pledged to extend full cooperation.
Subsequently, the hearing was adjourned to April 7 when the defence would resume the cross-examination of the victim girl.
Initially, the gang-rape case was tried by the sessions courts in Dadu. However, the Sindh High Court transferred the case to a sessions court (south) in Karachi when the father of the victim girl moved an application in the court, maintaining that his daughter and family members were given death threats by the respondents/accused and it was very difficult for him to pursue the case in his hometown.
Source: Dawn
Date:3/26/2009

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