x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Doubts over conviction of 17 on death row

Evidence not credible, says defence and forensics team did not carry out fingerprinting or DNA testing on suspects.

SHARJAH // Investigators were unable to find fingerprints or physical evidence to link 17 men on death row to the murder they were convicted of, a court has heard.

A forensics expert, part of a team that examined the crime scene after the death of Misri Nazir Khan, a Pakistani, last year, told the Sharjah Court of Appeals yesterday there was no match between their examinations and the suspects, all of whom are Indian.

The testimony appeared to cast doubt upon the conviction of the men as well as on the methods used to gather evidence in the case.

According to the forensics expert Ayoub Ali, he and two colleagues were called to the Sajjaa Industrial Area in Sharjah in January of last year. He said that the crime scene had already been sealed off by police when they arrived.

The team found torn pieces of clothing and a large amount of blood on the ground, Mr Ali said. They collected blood samples, what remained of the clothes and the body of the victim, who allegedly died as a result of a dispute over alcohol sales, and took them to the lab.

Two saloon cars and a pick-up truck were also discovered at the scene. The team was recalled to the area the following day to examine the pick-up, which was believed to belong to one of those involved in the brawl, Mr Ali said.

Evaluations of the evidence were completed in less than 10 days and a report was prepared, signed by the laboratory manager and presented to police and prosecutors. The report found that the victim had died from a severe beating to most of his body, especially the head, Mr Ali said.

The clothing was found to belong to the deceased and one of the three men wounded in the fight.

"The way you collected your evidence is not credible at all," said the defence lawyer Hannah al Shahba during his cross-examination of the witness.

"You are supposed to prove to us that the evidence collected on the scene matches with the suspects' fingerprints or DNA."

Mohammed Salman, another defence lawyer, asked if the lab team had examined the suspects to determine whether any of them had any connection to the clothing or the weapons used in the murder. Mr Ali answered no to both queries.

Mr Salman then asked if any fingerprinting or DNA testing had been done on any of the suspects, and Mr Ali again replied no.

"Then how do we know that they were the ones who killed?" Judge Mohammed al Shamsi asked.

"We were never asked to conduct any tests on the suspects," Mr Ali replied. "We do only what we have been asked to do."

Following Mr Ali's testimony, Col Abdul Razzak Asad, of the Sharjah police, who supervised the crime scene, was called to the stand. He was unable to produce images taken at the scene, saying he had not brought them to court.

Judge al Shamsi adjourned the case until November 4.

ykakande@thenational.ae