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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 17:29 GMT
'Best Bakery perjurer' surrenders
By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

Zahira Sheikh
Zahira Sheikh gave herself up to a court in Mumbai
A woman sentenced to a year in prison for perjury has given herself up to a court in Mumbai (Bombay) a month after she had gone on the run.

India's Supreme Court sentenced Zahira Sheikh to prison for perjury in a murder case arising from the 2002 Gujarat religious riots.

She was the prosecution's main witness in what came to be known as the Best Bakery trial.

She had been found guilty of lying in court after changing her testimony.

Last month, a special court sentenced nine people to life in prison for burning 14 people to death in the notorious attack on the Best Bakery.

Zahira Sheikh was ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 rupees ($1,000) on Wednesday. If she fails to pay, the court said she would have to spend another year in jail. Her whereabouts had been unknown since February's trial.

Twelve Muslims and two others were burned to death when the bakery was attacked by a Hindu mob in the Gujarati city of Baroda.

The violence was sparked by the death of 59 Hindus on a train. Reports said the train had been set on fire by a Muslim mob in the town of Godhra.

Key witness

Eyewitnesses at the time, including Zahira Sheikh, said a Hindu mob attacked the bakery with swords and petrol bombs and burned it down.

A court in Gujarat acquitted all the accused in the original trial after Ms Sheikh retracted her testimony.

But after she said she had been threatened by local politicians, the Supreme Court ordered a retrial outside Gujarat, saying a free and fair trial was not possible in the state.

But she once again changed her testimony, alleging this time that she had been coerced by her lawyer to give forced statements in court.

A committee set up by the Supreme Court said it believed she had been bribed to turn hostile in court.


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