A key witness in the alleged fake encounter cases of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati sent a letter to the court through his wife on Monday, claiming that he was under pressure not to depose before a court and that his life was in danger, The Indian Express reported.

Along with Sheikh and Prajapati, the 40-year-old man was a co-accused in the murder of gangster Hamid Lala in 2004. He was a close friend of Sheikh’s and shared a cell with Prajapati at Udaipur central jail. The Central Bureau of Investigation had previously summoned the man but said he was not traceable.

On Monday, the man’s wife deposed before a special CBI court in Mumbai as a prosecution witness. She then submitted a letter written in Hindi to the court, saying her husband was under pressure not to depose before the court. Two other witnesses had also deposed before the court on Monday.

She told the court that her husband was scared he would be killed in a fake encounter and hence she and other family members insisted on travelling with him for the court hearings.

“The police have registered five false cases against him to put pressure on him,” she told the court. All these recent cases have only been filed to ensure he does not appear as a witness in this case. Politicians and police are putting pressure on him against deposing in the case.” She also requested the court to assure safe custody of her husband while being brought to the court and taken back home.

In the letter addressed to the court and the prosecution, the man said he knew the truth about the alleged encounters and wanted to appear before the court as a witness. But he said he feared he would be killed in an encounter or falsely implicated in a criminal case.

The other two witnesses were responsible for the booking windows at Ahmedabad railway station and identified the tickets they had issued to four police officers and Prajapati on December 26, 2006.

Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case

Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati were said to be extortionists who were taking money from marble traders in Rajasthan and Gujarat. They were also said to be involved in smuggling arms, although it is the marble industry that allegedly wanted Sheikh killed.

In November 2005, when Shaikh and his wife Kauserbi were travelling by bus from Hyderabad to Sangli (in Maharashtra), they were stopped by the Gujarat and Rajasthan police, abducted and shot dead near Gandhinagar. Kauserbi was also allegedly raped by a sub-inspector before being murdered.

Prajapati was the sole witness of the murders. He was in police custody after the incident and was shot dead in another encounter in December 2006, with the police claiming that he was trying to escape from custody.