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‘Scared’ Zahira gives in

Mumbai, March 10: After hiding for days, Best Bakery massacre witness Zahira Sheikh surrendered this evening before the special court that had heard the case.

She turned up around 7 pm ' after court hours ' before designated judge Abhay Thipse. Zahira will be in the charge of Mumbai police for two days and will be produced before the court on Monday.

A person acquainted with the case said Zahira surrendered because she was scared and wanted protection.

Today’s hearing lasted over 90 minutes. Zahira, who appeared with her face covered in a burqa, unlike the many times she smilingly faced the media on the court premises, was then bundled off into a police van.

Police in Maharashtra and Gujarat and the prosecution were on the lookout for her since the judgment in the Best Bakery case on February 24. Nine accused were sentenced to life imprisonment and perjury notices issued to Zahira and her family.

On March 8, the Supreme Court handed Zahira a one-year jail term and a Rs 50,000 fine. She was found guilty of contempt of court for changing her statement several times during the trial and retrial of the Best Bakery killings in Vadodara during the 2002 riots.

“She surrendered on her own,” said public prosecutor Manjula Rao. The Mumbai court had asked Zahira and her family to reply to the perjury notices by March 20. She will face the court on this charge now.

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