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ATC summons foreign secy over poor coordination in securing Seigel’s testimony

ATC summons foreign secy over poor coordination in securing Seigel’s testimony

ISLAMABAD: A Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) on Wednesday issued show cause notices to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for its ‘poor coordination’ in ensuring the attendance of US lobbyist Mark Seigel to record his statement in the Benazir Bhutto murder case.

Mr Seigel, a star witness against Gen Musharraf in the Benazir murder case, had consented to testify. The foreign ministry had informed the ATC that the US lobbyist would testify on August 26 and 27 via video-link from Pakistan’s embassy in Washington DC.

ATC Judge Rai Mohammad Ayub Marth had resumed hearing of the Benazir murder case on Wednesday.

Since the Rawalpindi commissioner had already informed the judge that Mr Seigel would be available on October 1 and 2 due to an ailment, the judge told special public prosecutors Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry and Khawaja Imtiaz that he had received a written intimation to that effect from the Rawalpindi administration.

“The letter stated that Mr Seigel is suffering from a kidney problem and is undergoing a surgery,” the judge said. “The new dates the commissioner’s office had intimated are October 1 and 2,” he further said.

The ATC judge also informed the prosecutors and the defence counsels that he had designated the commissioner’s office – where the court would convene to record the witness’ statement via video-link – an extension of the ATC under Section 15 of the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997, in order to give level cover to Mr Seigel’s testimony.

Malik Mohammad Rafique, counsel for the accused police officers DIG Saud Aziz and SSP Khurram Shahzad, alleged that the prosecution had deliberately delayed the testimony with mala fide intentions.

He suggested the court may give up this witness or accept his statement as reported by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) if Mr Seigel could not appear before the court. Judge Marth asked the prosecutors whether that would be acceptable for them, to which the special prosecutor replied, “This is not a matter of choice, but the court should proceed in this matter in accordance with the law.”

He suggested the court to seek an explanation from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs as to why they did not coordinate with Mr Seigel and kept everyone in the dark about his unavailability until the eleventh hour.

The prosecutor claimed that Mr Seigel would be available to testify after a couple of weeks and requested that the court summon an official from the foreign ministry.

Subsequently, the court directed the foreign secretary to depute the director of the United States desk to brief the court in this matter and pursue the case with the US government, before adjourning further proceedings until August 31.

Published in Dawn, August 27th, 2015

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