Kidnap trial witnesses 'threatened'

First published in News

Three witnesses have been threatened and warned not to testify in the trial of a gang charged with organising a British five-year-old’s kidnapping in Pakistan, a court heard today.

The relatives of Sahil Saeed, who was kidnapped for 13 days in March 2010, travelled from Pakistan to the Provincial Court in Tarragona, north east Spain, to give evidence in the trial of Muhammad Zahid Saleem, his wife Gianina Monica Neruja and their flatmate Muhammad Sageiz.

But the boy’s uncle Rizwan Saeed, aunt Madhea Rizwan and Mrs Rizwan’s sister Israa today asked not to give evidence because they “fear for their safety” after being warned in Pakistan not to talk.

The three were present when Sahil was snatched by four masked men armed with AK-47 assault rifles and grenades at his grandmother’s house in Jhelum in Pakistan’s Punjab region while on holiday with his father.

The boy was released in Pakistan after a £110,000 ransom was dropped off in Paris and allegedly collected by Saleem and Neruja.

Saleem, Neruja and Sageiz were arrested at their home in Tarragona on the same day Sahil was freed but deny charges of kidnap of a minor, conspiracy, robbery in conjunction with a crime of trespassing and eight charges of unlawful arrest.

Maria Jose Osuna, for the prosecution, told the court: “The witnesses have let it be known that some people went to their home, threatened them and told them not to testify in this trial.

”They say they fear for their safety when they return to their country if they give evidence.

”We have also received an email from the Spanish authorities in Pakistan letting us know that the Pakistani police officers who carried out the investigation into Sahil’s kidnapping in that country have been fired and may not be able to give evidence.”

Jose Manuel Sanchez, who presides over the panel of three judges are trying the case, ruled that the witnesses should give their evidence.

But he decided that a screen should be placed in front of the defendants to make the witnesses feel more “comfortable”.

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