Mumbai, Apr 22: As the appeals filed by the nine convicts in the 2002 Best Bakery case are pending before the Bombay High Court, a key prosecution witness, Shaikh Yasmeen Banu, has claimed that she was “lured and misguided” by social activist Teesta Setalvad into giving a false testimony.
“Teesta Setalvad made me give false testimony in the Best Bakery case by luring and misguiding me. I had written everything in the affidavit submitted to the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court in June last year,” Yasmeen said in a statement issued earlier this week.
Reacting to the allegation, Setalvad said, “The trial is long over. The guilty have been brought to book. I do not know why this statement has been made now. Her (Yasmeen) statement is manipulative.”
Yasmeen was the only prosecution witness from the Shaikh family who stood by the police's case against the 17 accused. Rest of the family, including prime witness and Yasmeen's sister-in-law Zaheera Shaikh, had turned hostile, alleging that they were forced by Setalvad to lie.
In her affidavit dated June 17, 2010, Yasmeen has stated that her deposition before the trial court was made at the behest of Setalvad.
According to Yasmeen, one Rais Khan, who is a close associate of Setalvad, had met her along with local Muslim leaders claiming that her life was in danger in Gujarat and she should shift to Mumbai where she would be taken care of.
“Setalvad and Rais promised to help me. I am leading a poor and miserable life. My affidavit should be treated as a petition. I don't want to say anything more,” Yasmeen's statement reads.
Apart from the Chief Justice of the Bombay High Court, Yasmeen's affidavit has also been sent to the Chief Justice of India, Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and Director General of Police, Gujarat.
In February 2006, the sessions court here sentenced nine accused to life imprisonment. The court later tried and convicted Zaheera and others who had turned hostile for perjury.
Fourteen people who had taken refuge in the Best Bakery—owned by the Shaikh family—in Vadodara were killed on March 1, 2002, during the post-Godhra riots.
All the convicts have filed appeals in the Bombay High Court, which are yet to come up for hearing.
In June 2003, all the accused had been acquitted by the original trial court in Gujarat.
Zaheera Shaikh later moved the Supreme Court alleging that she gave false testimony because she was under pressure.
The Apex Court, in 2004, ordered a retrial at a special Mumbai court, in which the ruling was reversed, and nine persons were convicted. PTI