IHC partially accepts Sharif family’s appeal against video link testimonies

A two-member bench of Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday upheld the decision of an accountability court to record the statements of two UK-based witnesses via video link in the Avenfield properties reference against the Sharif family. However, it mandated that the testimonies be recorded in the presence of Nawaz Sharif, Maryam Nawaz and her husband, retired Captain Muhammad Safdar.
The court was hearing an appeal filed by Amjad Pervez, the counsel for Maryam Nawaz and her husband, against the accountability court’s decision to allow two UK-based witnesses to testify via video link.
Last week, two UK-based prosecution witnesses, including a nephew of an additional director general of the Federal Investigation Agency, were allowed to testify through a video link in a reference against the ousted prime minister, his children and son-in-law.
Pervez argued that the accountability court had accepted the request of the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) the prosecution to record the statements through video link even though his client had reservations over the matter.
He said if the accountability court’s decision is upheld by the high court, it must be ensured that the statements of the witnesses are recorded in the presence of his client. The counsel for Nawaz Sharif, Saad Hashmi, also adopted Pervez’s arguments.
NAB Deputy Prosecutor General Sardar Muzaffar Abbasi, however, had argued against, saying that the appellants were only trying to prolong the trial by bringing the matter to the IHC. He claimed that Maryam and her family had not raised any objection in the accountability court.
Justice Athar Minallah observed that a fair trial is the suspect’s right and added that the court must make sure that the requirements of a fair trial are being observed.
The petition, which was submitted by Pervaiz on Wednesday, sought the annulment of the accountability court’s decision to allow witnesses to testify via video link. The federation, NAB chairman and Accountability Court Judge Mohammad Bashir who passed the decision were made party to the case in the petition.
The application filed by NAB seeking the testimony of the owner of UK-based Quist Solicitors, Akhtar Raja, and principal at the Radley Forensic Document Laboratory, Robert W. Radley, via video link had been accepted by the accountability judge.
Radley and Raja, who is a nephew of FIA additional DG Wajid Zia, the head of the Joint Investigation Team that had investigated the Sharif family in Panamagate case, were allowed to record their statements through video link at the Pakistan High Commission in London. The judge had also issued a directive for the installation of necessary equipment in this regard.
The two witnesses had earlier refused to appear in person before the accountability court, citing security reasons and other professional commitments.
The Avenfield Properties reference alleges that Nawaz, his children and his son-in-law had purchased four flats in Park Lane, UK, without legitimate financial means.