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July 15, 2018

No precedent of NAB court trial in jail: Ali Zafar


July 15, 2018

ISLAMABAD: No court can conduct a ‘secret trial’ and journalists and others wanting to cover or witness the trial will be allowed in any case, says Law Minister Ali Zafar while rejecting reports of pressure to issue a notification of jail trial of former prime minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif late at night.

“Yes, this is true that there is no example whatsoever of conducting an accountability court trial in jail,” admitted Zafar.

“The law ministry has received a request by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) under Section 16 of the NAB Ordinance and under a section of the CrPC there is a possibility of transferring the premises of a trail court to the jail and thus we have allowed the same request by the bureau,” said the law minister.

Zafar said there was no pressure to transfer the premises of accountability court to the Adiala Jail.

When asked during the interview if there was no pressure then why such a notification was issued late at night and why the same could not have been issued on Saturday or Monday, Ali Zafar said, “You are correct … this notification could have been issued even earlier.”

When told that there were reports of pressure by certain quarters, as instead of the NAB officials personnel of some other agency were encircling Nawaz and Maryam in a humiliating way, Ali Zafar again said there was no such pressure.

“This notification could have been issued even a week before,” Ali Zafar said, adding, “The NAB might have requested us at this stage because Nawaz Sharif’s return was not confirmed earlier. The request is made because of security issues during the movement from jail to court.”

It is important to mention here that Nawaz had announced returning to Pakistan around one week before and even his confirmed return air tickets were shared with the media so there was no confusion about his return or date and time of return.

Also Nawaz Sharif and Maryam Nawaz appeared in the accountability court over hundred times and there had never been any issue of security.

Ali Zafar said media persons and others could not be barred from attending the court proceedings at the Adiala Jail.

“If journalists and others are not allowed in, it will make the court proceedings ‘a secret trial’ which is not possible under the law,” said the law minister.

“The shifting of accountability court to a different premises doesn’t matter, as the place where such proceedings will be held will be a ‘courtroom’ and an ‘open court’. He said those interested in witnessing the court proceedings will be allowed.

Many journalists have reservation that they will not be allowed to cover the court proceedings or a select few journalists will be allowed in.

When again asked about restrictions on journalists to cover such a trial in jail and as federal information minister will he ensure their access to the trial premises, Ali Zafar said there was no question that anyone will be stopped from covering the proceedings of a trial being conducted in an open court.

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