The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Zahira twin acts & cash film roll Wary inside, words outside

Mumbai, Dec. 22: Today, there were two Zahira Sheikhs ' one in court and one outside. Just as when she first named the Best Bakery killers only to go back on her testimony later.

Asked four times in court to answer the charge that she had taken money to change her testimony, Zahira replied patiently ' smiling each time ' invoked Allah once, but did not either admit or deny.

Outside the special court in Mumbai, the 20-year-old was a picture of firmness, issuing outright denials while in Delhi a video was rolling where an associate of Zahira's one-time tormentor, Madhu Srivastava, said she had been paid Rs 18 lakh.

When public prosecutor Manjula Rao asked Zahira the first time if she had been promised a sum of Rs 35 lakh and had received Rs 18 lakh already, she replied: 'Whatever I have said in court is true because I have taken the oath to speak the truth.'

The prosecution repeated the question. Zahira said: 'Nobody gives anything to another person.'

When judge Abhay Thipse told her to explain what she meant, Zahira replied that social activist Teesta Setalvad ' whom she has charged with forcing her to accuse innocent men in the Best Bakery killings ' had also made many promises, but did not keep them.

'She said she would help me and get my bakery repaired,' Zahira said. Best Bakery was owned by Zahira's family and her uncle was among the 14 who died when it was set afire in the Gujarat riots. 'Is this why you have taken the money beforehand this time' the judge asked.

'I have sworn in court that I will not tell lies. Even after death, one has to show one's face to Allah. So how can I tell a lie' Zahira asked in return.

'Paisa liya kya' the judge asked again. Zahira said it should be made known to her who had allegedly promised the money. The prosecution would resume tomorrow with the question, but once outside the court, Zahira held an impromptu news conference where she said: 'I did not take money.'

Replying to a query about the Tehelka video that was shown today, Zahira said: 'The allegations are false.'

She put them down to a conspiracy between Setalvad and Chandrakant Batthoo Srivastava, Madhu's cousin who says on the video that Zahira was paid Rs 18 lakh.

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