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Published in the 16-31 Dec 2004 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

Muslim lawyers abandon cases

By Abdul Hafiz Lakhani

Ahmedabad: Following the the arrest of senior lawyer HN Jhala and his associate by the crime branch recently, three Muslim lawyers defending accused under POTA have withdrawn themselves from these cases. 

The development is just what the legal fraternity here had apprehended after the arrest of Jhala, a criminal lawyer with 50 years of experience, who too has been charged under POTA for his alleged links with Shariff Khan, a Karachi-based sharp-shooter.

Jhala’s arrest was interpreted as a move to terrorise lawyers espousing the cause of the riot victims and people of the minority community accused under POTA.

Senior lawyers Hashim Kureshi, Javed Khan Pathan, and KG Pathan, who were till recently holding the brief for many people of the minority community held under POTA for their alleged involvement in the Godhra train inferno, Akshardham shootout and Haren Pandya murder cases, have written to the designated POTA court that they would not be appearing for the hearing in these cases till the lawyers arrested by the city crime branch are cleared of the charges slapped on them.

While the withdrawal of these lawyers is likely to weaken the defence of the people of the minority community charged under POTA, Kureshi said that they had taken this action because they felt that they were not safe.

Kureshi added that if the crime branch can arrest lawyers for talking to their clients, then they too could be held anytime.

"If some accused persons are declared absconders by the police, they contact lawyers to defend themselves, then why should we be treated like criminals?," asked Kureshi.

Lawyers here had abstained from work in protest against the arrest of Jhala and his associate Mustaq Syed. "These arrests are all the more important reasons to shift the riot-related cases out of Gujarat," said senior high court lawyer, Mahesh Bhatt. 

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