Criticism of murder trial ‘may be hitting a nerve’

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The trial of Dutch national Richard de Wit has so far been dogged with setbacks and has on several occasions seemed close to collapse, leading Miss Groves’ father Vic to brand it a ‘shambles’.

However, in court in Srinagar this week the family’s legal representative laid a formal objection before Judge Tahir Khurshid Raina in his chambers which was strongly critical of the public prosecutor, Mohammad Sultan.

The request to replace him was not upheld but the judge then, according to information provided to the family by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, went on to impress upon both the prosecution and defence counsel a requirement to assist in bringing about a speedy conclusion to the trial.

But it was what was said next that is most encouraging, according to Mr Groves.

In a statement he said: ‘The judge then, most significantly, referred to the negative international media coverage of the trial. He again directed his comments to both the prosecution and the defence.

‘This is the first time that any such reference has been made to the negative publicity being gained and implies that some level of pressure was being brought to bear to rectify matters.

‘It is highly unlikely that these comments were prompted solely by the meeting beforehand with our legal representative or from letters we had written previously. This is an encouraging development.’

He added: ‘Clearly actions will speak louder than words and much of what was said by the judge today has been said many times before. That said, there was a more determined attitude displayed with the very first acknowledgement that egos and reputations were on the line. At long last the widespread criticism of the trial and the system within which it is operating might be hitting a nerve.’

During yesterday’s hearing, cross examination of the first police officer at the scene, SI Kuldeep Koul, continued. He first took the stand in November 2017.

No other witnesses showed up in court, which prevented any further progress in the trial.

Four witnesses have been called for the next hearings, which are due to take place on 17 and 18 September, two via standard summons and two through warrants.

Mr de Wit denies murdering the 24-year-old on a houseboat in Kashmir in April 2013.

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