The State of India vs Richard de Wit (72nd hearing)

Released by Vic Groves, Wednesday 4th May 2016 from the UK for Immediate Use

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Today represented the 72nd occasion on which the court has convened to hear the above case and, as has so often been the situation in this trial, the events of the day did not follow the expected pattern.

Today’s hearing was intended to enable the judge to reach a decision on whether or not the defendant, Richard de Wit, is fit to stand trial. In order to do so the Medical Board who produced the Indian psychiatrist’s report referred to on previous occasions, was scheduled to be questioned by the judge and by the Defence Counsel. This was predominantly at the behest of the Defence Counsel who claim that Richard de Wit is fit to stand trial and who felt that the Indian psychiatrist’s report was far from conclusive. It was very short, light on content and, quite remarkably, even referred to the previous report produced by the two Dutch doctors who had assessed Richard de Wit. In Indian law, it seems that such referral immediately invalidates the report itself as it has to be fully independent.

Key personnel from the Medical Board, including the Indian psychiatrist, were not present in court today. In addition, a critical component of reaching a final decision is a translated version of Richard de Wit’s previous medical history going back to his time in the Netherlands and this was not available for presentation to the court as it had not been previously referred to. There is some confusion about whether or not this will be allowed into court without the formal consent of Richard de Wit and his lawyers which they may well not give.

Mr Bart Stapert, the Dutch human rights lawyer, was once again in court today. He has been working towards finding Richard de Wit a new Kashmiri lawyer. However, Richard de Wit took that initiative himself without referral to Mr Stapert and a new lawyer is now in place. Mr Stapert has also been trying to assess whether or not Richard de Wit is fit to stand trial and has been investigating ways of moving forward in the event that he is eventually deemed unfit to stand trial. These options can only be discussed and progressed after the judge’s decision has been made.

There is a clear conflict of opinion emerging which, in itself, creates further delay in the trial.  On the one hand Mr Stapert and, to a certain extent the judge, want the trial suspended whilst Richard de Wit receives treatment. Where that would take place is a subject for further discussion and possible conflict. On the other hand, the defence and Richard de Wit himself want the trial to continue.

What is becoming clearer as time passes is that a way out of the various impasses and delaying tactics must be found. Particularly frustrating is the repeated non-appearance of key personnel in court when they are needed. Today the Indian psychiatrist did not appear and Richard de Wit’s main lawyer, Mr Ronga, was represented by his junior assistant Mr Musharraf. The Public Prosecutor, representing the State of India, took no part in today’s proceedings.

A ‘next hearing’ date has been set for Wednesday May 18th 2016.

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