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Best Bakery case: Zaheera turns hostile

Source: PTI
Last updated on: December 21, 2004 15:22 IST
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Zaheera Sheikh, prime witness in the Best Bakery case, was on Tuesday declared hostile by the prosecution after she went back on her statement to the police during the retrial in a special court in Mumbai.

She is the seventh witness to turn hostile.

Others who did not support the prosecution include Zaheera's mother Sehrunissa, sister Saira, brothers Nafitullah and Nasibullah, and two independent witnesses.

During examination by prosecutor Manjula Rao, Zaheera told designated judge Abhay Thipsay that her maternal uncle, Quaser, was not present in the Best Bakery when it was set on fire by a group of persons on March 1, 2002.

In her police statement, Zaheera had said that Quaser was present at the bakery at the time of the incident. In police records, however, he is shown as missing.

Zaheera told the court that she had signed only one document and that was the FIR, but did not know its contents.

The key witness also said she did not see anything on the day when the Best Bakery was set on fire as there was lot of smoke and fire all around and missiles were thrown by the mob at the terrace of the bakery where she and others had taken shelter.

Zaheera said only her sister Sabira was on the first floor of the bakery when it was set on fire. However, police records show that Sabira and some others, including Shabnam and Ruksana, were present on the first floor.

Soon after this, the prosecutor declared her hostile as she did not support the prosecution's case.

Altogether 14 persons died when the bakery was set afire on March 1, 2002 by an irate mob in the post-Godhra riots. A total of 22 accused are being tried for the crime.

In a U-turn on November 3, Zaheera filed an affidavit before the Vadodara collector saying she was pressured by social activist Teesta Setalvad to name innocent persons as accused before the special court in Mumbai conducting the re-trial.

She had also denied meeting BJP MLA Madhu Shrivastav, who she had accused of threatening her from stating the truth before a fast track court in Vadodara.

In another turnaround, she had said that the judgment passed by the fast track court Judge H U Mahida was correct.

With Teesta's support, Zaheera had earlier moved the Supreme Court for a re-trial outside Gujarat. Following her petition, the apex court had ordered transfer of the case to a Mumbai court and also rapped the state government regarding protection to riot witnesses.

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