First Additional Sessions Judge K.P. Indira, on Saturday, ordered that the six prosecution witnesses who turned hostile during the Aprani Krishnakumar murder case be put on trial on the charge of perjury.

Special prosecutor Sajan Prasad told First Additional District and Sessions Judge K.P. Indira that the five men had, on their own volition, given their account of the crime to magistrates under Section 164 of the Criminal Procedure Code.

However, during the trial, they had retracted their sworn statements and stated that they had given the statements under police duress.

Earlier, three magistrates, who had recorded the statements of the men in-camera, told the court that the witnesses had sworn before them that their statements were a voluntary exercise of their free will. Two of the witnesses were former aides of the victim, Aprani Krishnakumar, and were travelling in his car when the assailants ambushed the vehicle and killed the gang leader on the National Highway bypass near Chakka at 12.15 p.m. on February 20, 2007.

The police said one of the witnesses was kidnapped by persons alleged to be close to the accused in the case. They added that during the trial, persons allegedly acting on the behest of the accused had threatened two key witnesses and attempted to murder another. The cases relating to the incidents were pending in various police stations.

The judge rejected the prosecution’s plea that Ambalamukku Krishnakumar, the leader of the hit-team, be awarded the capital punishment on the ground that he had committed three murders after getting bail in one in 2006.

She said Krishnakumar stood a remote chance of getting reformed during his incarceration. The youths, drunk with money and power, had thrown away their chance to lead a normal life as law-abiding citizens. Their criminal activities had turned the district, chiefly the Kazhakuttam locality, into a high-crime zone where blood was cheaply spilled for money and influence.

She said the victim, Aprani Krishnakumar, was himself a gangster. However, his murder was a criminal act, which needed to be condemned. She put on record her deep appreciation for investigating officers Assistant Commissioner R. Mahesh and C. Mohanan and Mr. Prasad for their successful prosecution of the case despite threats and extraneous pressures.