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June 26, 2012
The lawyer acting for the Pakistan bowler, Danish Kaneria, has called for his appeal against a life ban from cricket imposed by the ECB to take the form of an open hearing on the grounds that it increases the prospect of a fair trial.
Kaneria was last week found guilty on two charges of corruption with relation to the Mervyn Westfield spot-fixing case but denies any involvement, claiming instead that he has been made a scapegoat.
Kaneria faces the end of his career in cricket if the ban is upheld. He is allowed a 14-day window from the point of receiving the ECB's final judgement in which to lodge an appeal - something he has already indicated that he will do.
Steven Hourigan, who represented Kaneria at the ECB tribunal, described the outcome of the five-day hearing as "pre-determined". Westfield provided testimony against his former Essex team-mate but Kaneria's legal team contend that the legspinner was not given a fair hearing. They also indicated that a further legal appeal - potentially to the Court of Arbitration for Sport - could be pursued in order to clear Kaneria's name.
"We've got nothing to hide about this. It's not sour grapes that we lost a fair hearing," Hourigan said. "We lost a hearing where it was pre-determined what the result was going to be. We're going to have an appeal. What we want is an independent observer to sit in and listen to the evidence. What we want is a fair hearing in front of an independent panel. We would want the press to sit in on the appeal and hear every word."
The ECB disciplinary panel, consisting of Gerard Elias QC, David Gabbitass and the former England allrounder Jamie Dalrymple, was critical of Kaneria in its judgement on the case, delivered on Friday. In the written summary of their findings they also concluded that Westfield, despite inconsistencies in his evidence, "was plainly telling the truth".
When contacted about the request for an open hearing, the ECB said that it would not be making any comment until an official appeal had been lodged.
Kaneria, who is Pakistan's fourth-highest wicket-taker in Tests, has previously called the verdict against him "unfair", based on Westfield's word against his, and Hourigan suggested that it was in the ECB's interests to pin the blame on someone from outside the domestic game in England.
"It's been suggested that what the ECB wanted to do and needed to do was, in order to present English cricket as being clean, that this one incident of corruption was caused by a foreign player coming to the UK and corrupting a young, English player," he said. "The fact Danish was an outsider and from Pakistan is easily believed and therefore he must be corrupt. If we'd had a fair hearing, that wouldn't have been the result."
Kaneria maintained that the case against him was motivated by Westfield's desire to minimise his own involvement in fixing. Westfield, who received a four-month prison sentence after pleading guilty to spot-fixing charges earlier this year, was given a five-year ban from cricket, though he will be able to resume playing club cricket after three years.
"He wanted to reduce his sentence." Kaneria said. "He's ruining my career to reduce his sentence."
Hourigan said: "Westfield picked on Danish because he was an easy target. Because he was an outside in the team, he's not a local player, because he comes from Pakistan it's easy to assume he must know about corruption."
Plays of the day from the fourth ODI between Australia and South Africa at the MCG