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Zaheera's brother denies naming accused

By Our Special Correspondent

MUMBAI, NOV. 22. Nafitullah Sheikh, elder brother of Zahira, the prime witness in the Best Bakery case today denied he had named several accused persons in his first police statement, and said his former wife Yasmin, was not present during the night when Bakery was attacked on March 1, 2002.

In his cross-examination by the Special Public Prosecutor, Manjula Rao, after he turned hostile, Nafitullah admitted that a mob of 1,200 to 1,500 persons did come towards the Bakery from various directions, and burnt his house and the bakery. However, he could not say if the mob was shouting filthy abuse, though he remembered people shouting: "Burn the bakery." He also said he could not say if the mob consisted of Hindus.

He contradicted parts of his statement recorded by police on March 4, 2002, and denied naming several persons as accused. When Ms. Rao read out the names to him, he promptly said: ``These people were not there." The Additional Sessions Judge, Abhay Thipsay, asked him if he knew any of the persons named by Ms. Rao, to which Mr. Nafitullah replied that he did not know any of them. The court asked him how could he state that they were not present at the time of the attack, if he did not know them in the first place.

Mr. Nafitullah said he did not tell police that he saw the accused persons or that they were leading the mob or playing a major role in the riots. The portion of his statement was read out to him, after which he said it was not correctly recorded and he could not say why police had done so.

`I blacked out'

He kept repeating that he blacked out after being hit by something, which the mob was throwing at them while they were on the terrace at night. He denied telling police that he and his family and others had pleaded with the mob to let them come down, after which some members of the mob tied up their hands and legs. When Mr. Thipsay put it to him that the mob had attacked him and tried to burn him and the others, which is why they were in hospital, Mr. Nafitullah said he did not know if the injuries were inflicted by the mob. He also did not know who attacked him and the others.

He denied that his mother, Sehrunissa, and his sister, Saira, were injured and volunteered the information that there was no question of his first wife, Yasmin, being injured, as she was not present. He also said his maternal grandmother was not present, as was recorded in his statement. Mr. Nafitullah denied giving three statements to police and insisted he gave only one. He admitted that injury marks on his neck might have been caused by bottles, which were thrown at him while he was on the terrace.

He said he did know of the press conference his sister Zahira was to address in Baroda, when he was leaving Mumbai along with his family. His cross-examination will continue tomorrow.

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