Spot-fixing controversy in Doha February 4, 2011

Pakistan trio await decision in Doha

The ICC is likely to push for maximum sanctions against the three Pakistani players facing spot-fixing charges. Salman Butt, Mohammad Asif and Mohammad Amir will find out on Saturday in Doha, Qatar whether they are innocent or guilty of the charges made against them by the ICC under its anti-corruption code. If found guilty , the trio face punishments ranging between five-year suspensions from cricket to a life ban.

The players will learn about their fate on Saturday morning when the three-man tribunal headed by Michael Beloff QC hands out the verdicts in the form of a written judgment. The tribunal, which includes Justice Albie Sachs and Sharad Rao, chose to defer a verdict on request of the players and the sheer volume of evidence and information they received during a six-day hearing held in January.

If the players are found guilty, the written verdict will, however, not include sanctions. The players, their lawyers and the ICC's legal team will then adjourn to review the judgment, because the ICC's code contains specific punishments to be handed out to parties found guilty of disregarding the code. Within a few hours, both sides will then make their submissions as to the severity of the sanctions to be imposed. The tribunal is then expected to adjourn, probably early in the afternoon, to consider these submissions before they make a decision later in the afternoon. Both the verdict and sanctions, if any, are expected to be announced in public at the end of the day.

"We can't comment on what sanctions would be appropriate, if any," one ICC official told ESPNcricinfo. "We would have to wait until the judgment is delivered." But ESPNcricinfo understands the game's governing body is likely to argue for maximum punishments. The possibility of a further appeal to the international Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) if they believe that the sanctions are too light, has not been ruled out.

The same route to appeal against any verdict also exists for the three players should they find the sanctions too harsh. Under the ICC's anti-corruption code, all parties have 21 days from the receipt of the judgment to file an appeal with the CAS. The players can appeal against the verdict and the punishment itself and can also challenge a decision based on procedural or jurisdictional reasons.

"I would say we will take it one step at a time and come to that when and if needed," Shahid Karim, Amir's lawyer, told ESPNcricinfo. "Appealing is an option and a right." Karim has indicated in the past that should Amir be found guilty and punished, he may argue that his age and clean disciplinary record before this case should be taken into account to reduce the sanction.

A source close to Butt's legal team said, "The right to appeal is there. This is no different to any other case or client Yasin Patel (Salman Butt's lawyer) probably deals with every day of his working life. No doubt, if he feels that then law has not been followed or that the verdict is wrong he will do what any good lawyer would do: appeal."

There is a suggestion that the players may ask for the judgment to not be made public in full as it could impact on any criminal prosecution that the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is also going ahead with. Karim however said the request to keep judgement within closed doors, "wasn't in contemplation right now."

A Scotland Yard investigation into the spot-fixing controversy has also been underway at the same time as the ICC's inquiry and tribunal hearing. The CPS has been considering evidence provided by the police on the matter and on Friday, is set to make a decision on whether or not to pursue a separate criminal case.

Butt had asked the ICC before the Doha hearings began in January for a postponement on the grounds that being under investigation at the same time by the police and the ICC was not entirely fair. The request was turned down by the ICC.

The players' lawyers have been conscious throughout of the different parameters involved in a court of law and a tribunal such as the ICC's, particularly when it comes to the use of evidence in the matter.

Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of ESPNcricinfo