Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir in Dubai for appeal
Salman Butt and Mohammad Amir arrived in Dubai on Friday to appeal against their provisional suspensions for alleged involvement in spot-fixing. The pair left Lahore accompanied by their lawyers and will now appear at a hearing over Saturday and Sunday with Michael Beloff, the chairman of the ICC's code of conduct commission.
Butt and Amir, along with Mohammad Asif, were suspended by the ICC on September 2, after being charged with various offences under Article 2 of the ICC's anti-corruption code; Asif has since withdrawn his appeal. The suspensions came after the News of the World tabloid claimed to have exposed a scam in which deliberate, planned no-balls would be bowled by Amir and Asif during the Lord's Test against England, with the involvement of Butt, who was then captain.
The ICC had initially wanted the PCB to take action against their own players, but were compelled to step in eventually after Ijaz Butt, the PCB chairman, indicated that the trio was available for selection for the ODI series that followed. Eventually, the players "voluntarily" withdrew from that series and the ICC handed out notices and suspended them the same day.
The hearings will only concern themselves with the matter of the provisional suspensions and whether or not the ICC followed the correct procedures in taking that action. The matter of the players' innocence or guilt and the actual charges against them will not be heard. Thus, even if the suspensions are lifted and the players allowed to return to cricket, a full hearing into the case will still take place later to determine their innocence or guilt in the matter. This is thought to be one of the reasons why Asif withdrew his appeal; unlike Amir and Butt, even if his suspension is lifted, he would not have been able to play for Pakistan immediately because he is barred - for a drug-related offence - from entering the UAE, where Pakistan's current series against South Africa is taking place.
The hearing is expected to be a detailed one where the players and their lawyers will be allowed the opportunity to build their cases. The ICC lawyers will be the only other people inside the hearing and though there is expected to be evidence from the ACSU placed in front of Beloff, he is expected to only listen to the arguments of the players and not argue or discuss their innocence or guilt.
The players cannot appeal against the decision of these hearings. The next step, irrespective of the outcome here, will be the full hearing before the independent tribunal. The date of that is not yet decided and may well depend on the outcome of the ongoing police investigation over the matter in the UK, where the case against the players is with the Crown Prosecution Service.
Of the three, Butt has been increasingly vocal over the last few weeks, making a number of public statements expressing confidence that his suspension will be lifted and that he will eventually be cleared. Before leaving early on Friday morning, similar sentiments were expressed once again. "Either you are guilty or you are not, and I think I am not guilty and I am sure about it," he told reporters at the airport.
He will be represented in Dubai by his lawyer Aftab Gul, a former Test cricketer, and Khalid Ranjha, a former law minister. Both share the confidence of their client. "We are going for justice in their court," Gul said. "We can't pre-empt what decision they give, it's their discretion, but our case is very good. There is no strong evidence against Salman Butt on the basis of which we can say that he should remain suspended."
Amir, who has not made a statement throughout this time, said on departure that he hoped he could return to the side. He will be represented by Shahid Karim, the lawyer who defended Asif in a doping case in October 2006.
Though two full days have been set aside for the hearings it is not certain that it will take that much time to reach a judgment. The two days were scheduled keeping in mind that there were three players initially appealing. "It will be eight hours hearing daily, but I don't think it's a 16 hours case," Gul said.
A swift return for Butt and Amir could be on the cards should a favourable decision be reached. Mohsin Khan, Pakistan's chief selector, told Dawn that he would seek a no-objection certificate from the PCB immediately should they be cleared to play by the ICC.
Osman Samiuddin is Pakistan editor of Cricinfo