New Gujarat riot trial urged - BBC, UK
- New Gujarat riot trial urged
Two key witnesses in the trial of 21 Hindus acquitted
of burning 12 Muslims to death during riots in Gujarat
say politicians pressured them into retracting their
Sehrunissa Sheikh and her daughter Zahira, 19, on
Monday called for a new trial.
Zahira Sheikh said she had lied in court following
threats from the western Indian state's ruling Hindu
nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party.
The call for a new trial came as fact-finders from the
National Human Rights Commission arrived in Gujarat to
investigate what it has called a "miscarriage of
Ms Sheikh said: "I want to reopen the case and want
justice for myself and my family members who were
burnt to death during the riots on 1 March, 2002".
The 12 Muslims were burned alive when they took refuge
in a bakery near the city of Baroda.
The attack happened during riots sparked by the
torching of a train carrying Hindu activists a month
Ms Sheikh said she wanted a fresh trial in Bombay
(Mumbai) because she did not trust the Gujarat legal
The Hindus were acquitted last month at a court in
Vadodara, 100 kilometres (60 miles) south of
Ahmedabad, Gujarat's capital.
Ms Sheikh said she had retracted her statement because
she feared for her life.
"I had no choice but to lie. But now I have realised
that I should get justice because my integrity is
During the trial, Ms Sheikh changed her story to say
she was hiding in a room above the bakery and did not
see the attackers' faces.
She now says she knew the men.
"I gave the names of the criminals who did it but the
police did not catch them. I now want justice," she
A social group, the Citizens Forum for Peace and
Justice, is backing Ms Sheikh's call for a Bombay
Forum secretary Teesta Setalvad said it would soon
file a petition for retrial outside of Gujarat.
She said the two witnesses would be kept in a secret
A total of 35 of the 73 witnesses in the Gujarat trial
retracted in court the statements they had given to
police identifying the attackers.
Several of those now say they were also forced into
Members of the National Human Rights Commission
arrived in Ahmedabad on Monday to check legal
documents on the case.
One commission member, social worker Gagan Sethi said
the team would also interview people in Baroda related
to the case.
The commission will not have an easy task. Advocates
in Baroda have already filed a contempt of court
petition against it for using the words "miscarriage
Legal analysts say also that the state government
would have to file an appeal against the verdict, an
action it has shown no sign of taking.
Many rights activists feel that the best that can be
achieved now is to stop other cases related to the
riots falling apart.
Between 1,000 and 2,000 people, most of them Muslims,
were killed in three months of religious violence
across the state that followed the torching of 58
Hindus on a train in Godhra.
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