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Salem charged, Manisha gets clean chit

Mumbai, April 15: Actress Manisha Koirala has received a clean chit from Mumbai police in the murder of her secretary Ajit Dewani.

A fortnight after a sobbing Manisha rang up the state police chief from Australia following media reports that Abu Salem had named her chief conspirator in the case, the chargesheet against the don made no reference to her.

The chargesheet, filed before a Maharashtra Control of Organised Crime Act (MCOCA) court today, names Salem and his associate Shah Alam as the accused.

Dewani, who worked for several actors, including Aftab Shivdasani, was gunned down at his Andheri office in 2001 after repeated extortion calls from Salem. He had apparently refused to pay up.

In the last week of March, TV reports said the don had alleged during a narco-analysis test in Bangalore that Manisha had hired him to kill Dewani.

A frightened Manisha called up Maharashtra director-general of police P.S. Pasricha and broke down even as she denied involvement in the murder. Pasricha told her the police had already rubbished the reports.

“There was no truth in the media report. Salem has neither made such a confession nor named (Manisha) Koirala,” special public prosecutor Ujwal Nikam said after the chargesheet was filed.

Salem’s lawyer Paritosh Tiwari said: “There is no mention of Koirala in the chargesheet. The narco-analysis test done on Salem was not in the Dewani case but in connection with builder Pradeep Jain’s murder. So, where is the question of him naming any actress'”

Salem, extradited from Portugal after a long legal battle, was initially prosecuted in the 1993 blasts case. The police crime branch formally arrested him in the Dewani murder on January 19.

A chargesheet had already been filed in the case, but after Salem’s arrest the police had to file a supplementary chargesheet.

Salem and Shah are accused of murder, trespass to commit murder, intimidation to cause death and criminal conspiracy under sections of the Indian Penal Code. They have also been charged under three sections of the MCOCA and four sections of the Indian Arms Act.

The other six accused in the case are Upendra Singh, Nizamuddin Abdul Rauf, Akhilesh Singh, Ayub Ibrahim Patel, Sahiblal Giri and Deepak Singh alias Dipu. The police say Salem ordered the murder after conspiring with the others. Judge Abhay Thipsay extended Salem’s judicial remand till April 19.

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