Saturday 18 November 2017

Defence lawyer who quit case called as witness for ex-client

Murder accused Sandip Moneea closely followed by Avinash Treebhoowoon leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius
Murder accused Sandip Moneea closely followed by Avinash Treebhoowoon leaving the Supreme Court in Mauritius

Cormac McQuinn in Mauritius

THE Michaela McAreavey trial lawyer, whose tasteless quips have caused outrage, will be back in court room number five as he promised -- but this time as a witness on behalf of the defence.

On Wednesday, Ravi Rutnah formerly defence counsel for Avinash Treebhoowoon, sensationally quit the case after what he dubbed "accusatory attacks" on his "professional integrity".

That afternoon he made a swift departure from court and the case was adjourned, but not before he quipped: "I will be back in Arnold Schwarzenegger style."

Yesterday his name appeared on a list of additional witnesses being sought by the defence.

Meanwhile, Judge Prithviraj told the defence team to speed up their cross-examination of witnesses as prosecutors complained, "we'll all be here until next year".

Mr Rutnah's theatrical and sarcastic courtroom style frequently led to loud guffaws from law students in the public gallery.

Now the defence team have been granted permission to call the lawyer as a witness, where he is expected to contest claims made about him by Chief Inspector Luciano Gerard in his testimony.

He said his departure was a "direct result" of CI Gerard's claims that he was late arriving for a meeting with his client, after Mr Treebhoowoon allegedly said he wanted to make a confession.

CI Gerard said Mr Rutnah had shared a friendly takeaway meal with police officers when he eventually did arrive.

He also said Mr Rutnah was present when Mr Treebhoowoon later recorded a confession. Mr Rutnah has previously said his client's confession was extracted as a result of police brutality, accusations the police have denied.

The hearing, which has now almost lasted its scheduled two weeks, has still only heard a fraction of the witnesses due to appear.

Key witnesses like Michaela's husband John and hotel worker Raj Theekoy -- who claims to have seen the two accused exiting the McAreaveys' room -- have had their appearances rescheduled.

Irish Independent

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