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POTA court order tomorrow on withdrawal petition

By K.T. Sangameswaran

CHENNAI, SEPT. 1. The court order on a prosecution petition, seeking to withdraw the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA) case against the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) general secretary, Vaiko, and eight other partymen, was not passed today. The special judge said he would pronounce orders on September 3.

When the case was taken up, all the accused, except Mr. Vaiko, were present. A petition seeking to dispense with Mr. Vaiko's appearance was filed by counsel G. Devadoss.

The special public prosecutor, S. Jayakumar, said it would not be proper for the court to pass orders on the application without the presence of the accused. L. Rajendran, judge of the Poonamallee special court constituted under the POTA, said he was aware of it.

K.S. Dinakaran, defence counsel, submitted that the court was required only to pass orders on a petition. Only where a judgment was pronounced, would the presence of the accused be necessary. Counsel were present and no prejudice would be caused. He would receive the order, he said.

The court later gave copies of the prosecution petition, filed under 321 Cr.P.C. (withdrawal from prosecution) to defence counsel.

The judge asked for a copy of the letter addressed by the Government to the SPP requesting him to consider withdrawing the case. The prosecutor said he did not have a copy and sought some time to bring one.

In the petition, the prosecution cited the April 8 POTA review committee's decision that there was no prima facie case for proceeding against the nine accused. The prosecution requested the court to consider the committee's order as part of the petition. He submitted that nine prosecution witnesses who were examined turned hostile.

As for Mr. Vaiko and three others, their criminal intention to speak in support of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam was doubtful as found by the committee, the SPP said.

The charge against Mr. Vaiko was that at a June 29, 2002 public meeting at Tirumangalam (Madurai district), he ``reiterated his support for the LTTE by declaring that he was an ardent supporter of the LTTE and its leader, Prabakaran, a proclaimed offender, and would continue to be so in future as well.''

The other accused spoke encouraging support to the banned organisation and arranged the meeting, which they knew was to support the LTTE.

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