Banned Pak trio to stand trial in British court

Former Test captain Butt, fast bowlers Asif and Aamer and bookie Mazhar Majeed today appeared before a hearing at the City of Westminster Magistrates' Court which was basically meant to set the trial date.

The three cricketers were granted unconditional bail and ordered to appear at Southwark Crown Court on May 20 to start trial. Majeed was also granted bail on the condition that he surrenders his passport and not apply for international travel documents.

They were charged after being questioned by Scotland Yard detectives over the spot-fixing scandal in the fourth Test between Pakistan and England at the Lord's last August, following a sting operation by the 'News of the World' tabloid newspaper.
Majeed is accused of accepting 150,000 pound sterling to arrange for the players to bowl "deliberate no-balls" during the Test match.

All the four sat together in the dock, which is surrounded by security glass, with a translator for teenager Aamer. The cricketers looked relaxed at the start of the hearing, but were glum-faced as the trial date was set.

Interestingly, a legal observer of Pakistan Cricket Board was present in the court.
District Judge Howard Riddle heard the evidence and warned all the four to ensure they attend court for trial.

"There is no doubt the allegations are very serious and I know you recognise that. On the face of it, there is clear evidence against all of you in varying degrees," he said.
"Failing to attend these proceedings will destroy playing international cricket in the future. Their reputation is of the utmost importance. They have a very strong incentive to attend trial and to defend this."

Prosecutor Sally Walsh said the accused had "conspired together and with others unknown for 150,000 pound sterling (USD 240,000) as inducement or reward to bowl three no-balls at the fourth Test" and "for the purpose of enabling another to cheat at gambling."

She objected to unconditional bail being granted but her application was dismissed regarding the cricketers. Their lawyers told the court their reputations were very important to them and they would attend all future hearings.

Sureties of up to 50,000 pound sterling were offered to secure the players' bail, but the judge said it was unnecessary.

Walsh told the court that Butt and Aamer had said in police interrogation that money which had been found in their possession was from appearances at an ice-cream parlour owned by Majeed.

She said Butt told the Scotland Yard detectives that the no-balls were coincidental while Aamer said they were the result of bad luck because the ground had been slippery.

Aamer's lawyer Gareth Peirce said the young cricketer had had to deal with problems with British immigration in order to attend today's hearing.

"He got here overcoming considerable odds. Immigration authorities managed to lose his application. He has gone the extra mile to ensure he is here," Peirce told the court.
If found guilty of the charges, the trio face prison sentences of up to seven years.
The three players have already been banned by the ICC, which held a separate inquiry, for periods ranging from five to ten years.

All three players have already filed appeals against their bans in the Court of Arbitration for Sport.

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