RAWALPINDI. Finally, after eight years, American journalist Mark Seigel has recorded his statement through video link in which he claimed that on September 25, 2007, in his presence in Washington, Benazir Bhutto had received a telephone call which she later described as a very ‘bad call’ from Musharraf.
Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto was in tension after receiving the threatening call from Pervez Musharraf on the occasion.
Mark Seigel recorded his statement before the Anti-Terrorist Court (ATC), Rawalpindi, Judge Rai Muhammad Ayub Marth. All arrangements had been made for video conferencing at the Rawalpindi Commissioner’s Office, which was declared a part of the court.
The judge adjourned further hearing till October 5.
The American author was weeping and was in a state of gloom while recording his statement. He said after receiving the threatening call from the military ruler, Benazir Bhutto was trembling in anger. She talked to Musharraf for 15 minutes, he claimed.
Seigel recorded his statement from Pakistan’s Embassy in Washington DC at around 7:35pm. The embassy premises had been declared an extension of the court as well.
Mark Seigel stated that Benazir Bhutto had received Musharraf’s threatening call at the office of American Senator Tom Lantos. She also showed him the name of Musharraf on phone screen when he was calling, he claimed.
He said the military dictator called Benazir Bhutto three weeks before her arrival in Pakistan.
Siegel stated that Benazir Bhutto had sent him an email on Oct 23, 2007, in which she expressed her sense of insecurity. She also wrote that if something happened to her, Musharraf would be responsible for that, as well as some individuals mentioned in her letter to Musharraf on Oct 16, 2007.
In his statement, Seigel said the former military ruler had warned Benazir Bhutto that “her safety depends on the state of their (Musharraf’s and Benazir’s) relationship”.
Siegel said that Musharraf had also warned Benazir Bhutto that her security would only be guaranteed if she returned to Pakistan after the 2008 general elections.
“I had recorded a statement before the Joint Investigation Team (JIT) in 2009 and I stand strict on my statement,” Mark Seigel said. He said that he had been in close contact with Benazir Bhutto since 1984.
He also said Benazir Bhutto had written a letter to Musharraf in which she informed him that his top officers were planning to kill her. Benazir Bhutto was upset, he added.
Ilyas Saddique Advocate, counsel for Pervez Musharraf, during a media talk outside the courtroom, strongly criticised the statement of US author Mark Seigel. He said he was a lobbyist for Benazir Bhutto in the US. He said the American journalist was favouring Benazir.
The lawyer said he submitted a critical note on the statement of Seigel before the ATC. The reference of email, which Seigel gave during his statement, was not legal, he added.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) lawyer Latif Khosa said Mark Seigel was not taking any salary from Benazir Bhutto. During the media talk outside the courtroom, he said Musharraf did not want to see Benazir in Pakistan before elections because he knew that the PPP would sweep the elections. Mark Seigel disclosed that all kinds of jammers installed on Benazir’s vehicle were not working. He said after the statement of Mark Seigel, it had become clear who the killers of Benazir Bhutto were. If courts did not do justice now, the public would lose its trust in courts, he claimed.
Federal Investigation Agency’s Special Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar and Naseer Tanoli, lawyer for the accused, were also present on the occasion.
Chaudhry Azhar, during the media talk, said Mark Seigel’s statement was very important. After the statement, the Benazir murder case would be concluded this month (October), he claimed.
Earlier, the interior ministry presented a letter by the US author Mark Seigel to the court in which he expressed his willingness to record his statement in the Benazir Bhutto murder case on October 1.
The testimony, which was earlier scheduled for August 27, was delayed due to Seigel’s ill health. The author, however, had said he was fit and ready to record his statement on October 1. The letter had been made part of the case record.
Investigators had included Siegel’s name in the list of prosecution witnesses to use his testimony against Pervez Musharraf. Siegel was a close friend of the slain former premier.
The ATC had summoned Siegel again and again but he had refused to travel to Pakistan citing security reasons. He, however, had agreed to record his statement.
Former DIG Saud Aziz, SP Khurram Shahzad and other suspects were also present in the court during video conferencing on Thursday.
The murder case was registered at the Rawalpindi City Police Station on Dec 27, 2007. It has been lingering on for eight years. There were 141 witnesses in the case. Of them, 57 have recorded their testimonies, 61 have been rejected and 23 are yet to record their statements.
FIA’s special prosecutor Mohammad Azhar Chaudhry said there was an ample evidence against Musharraf and the testimony of Siegel would strengthen the prosecution’s case.