State of India vs Richard de Wit (69th hearing)

Released by Vic Groves, Wednesday April 6th 2016 from Guernsey for Immediate Use

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The Principal Sessions Court in Srinagar listed the above case for a special hearing today – the 69th time a hearing has been scheduled in this long-running case since its inception in June 2013.

The purpose of the hearing was for Mr Bart Stapert, a human rights lawyer appointed and funded by the Dutch Government as an intermediary, to lay before the court a letter and a report produced in the previous 48 hours by a Dutch psychologist and a Dutch psychiatrist relating to the mental state of the accused, Richard de Wit – himself a Dutchman.

The contents of the report, although unknown in detail, led to the unanimous conclusion that Mr de Wit is not fit to stand trial.  It is understood that the judge is of the same opinion but this now needs to be confirmed by an independent Indian psychiatrist who is due to produce a report at the next scheduled session which has been set for Saturday 16th April.  By all accounts Mr de Wit is severely ill to a point where nobody can get through to him in any rational manner with delusions so prevalent and dominating that he has lost all touch with reality.

Consequently, it is now almost inevitable that in the near future Richard de Wit will be officially confirmed as ‘unfit to stand trial’ and will have to be admitted to hospital for psychiatric treatment in Kashmir, where he was previously assessed at the start of the trial.  In theory, if he recovers to the point where he is once again fit to stand trial, the case can resume.  However, it is understood that Mr de Wit’s mental illness is severe, deep-rooted and has been with him for many years – in fact since he was a boy.

When assessed originally, it is understood that he did have the opportunity to plead insanity but chose not to do so for two reasons.  Firstly, it implied guilt and secondly, he dreaded the concept of returning to a mental institution in Kashmir.  We understand that the opportunity may present itself for a humanitarian transfer to the Netherlands with a simultaneous request from the Dutch Government to transfer the prosecution.  Such steps are a long way off, almost certainly impracticable as far as the trial itself is concerned and are unlikely to be supported by the Indian authorities without extremely strong justification.

From the above a number of conclusions can be drawn:

  • Mr de Wit is almost certainly never going to be fit to stand trial again;
  • An in-court observer reported today as follows “I saw Richard in court today.  He has lost a HUGE amount of weight, a shadow of the man I met last time at the court.  He has virtually stopped eating as he continues to maintain that he is being poisoned.”. There is a real possibility of him committing suicide, going on hunger strike or dying of natural causes if admitted to a Kashmiri mental institution;
  • A clear cut and safe decision in respect of whether Mr de Wit is guilty or innocent is never likely to be reached.

In the unlikely event that the judge does not find him ‘unfit to stand trial’ or the Medical Board does not uphold the judge’s initial finding, the case will proceed. Against the strong advice of Mr. Bart Stapert, Mr. de Wit seems to have hired local lawyer Mr. Baba Musharaf to represent him.  He is very inexperienced and has never handled this type of case before and only seems to want the kudos of representing a foreign national in a major case.  It must be stressed that this is a highly unlikely outcome.

There are many people who believe Richard de Wit is innocent.  In fact, a 40-page dossier has been produced which highlights the serious shortcomings of the original police enquiry and which names six other suspects in the case, against each of whom there is prima facie evidence of lies and deceit, in most cases in court and under oath.  Each of these named persons should be investigated in-depth.

The situation regarding Richard de Wit may present the opportunity to enable further investigations to take place and, if this is so, the Groves family will pursue it with all vigour.

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