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Judge says Bhajji cleared by lack of evidence

Published: Wednesday, January 30, 2008, 14:02 [IST]
 
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Lack of evidence saved Bhajji: Judge

Adelaide: Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was cleared of racially abusing Australia's Andrew Symonds due to lack of evidence, rather than any external pressure, appeals commissioner John Hansen said.

Harbhajan was cleared by the New Zealand judge at an International Cricket Council appeal hearing on Tuesday, ending weeks of speculation over whether India would cancel their tour if the suspension stood.

The decision was followed by media reports that Cricket Australia and the Board of Cricket Control for India had brokered a deal that would see the charges downgraded.

Hansen downgraded the charge, overturned the suspension and fined Harbhajan 50 percent of his match fee, but said it was because he could be not be certain that the Indian spinner called Symonds, Australia's only black player, a "big monkey".

Hansen said it was clear that the Australians -- Symonds, Michael Clarke and Matthew Hayden -- were sure the comment had been made, but said there were complicating factors that cast doubt on their evidence.

The judge noted they could not recall other comments made during the incident, and said the complicating factors of "different languages, accents and cultures" cast great doubt over what transpired, especially with Harbhajan immediately denying the claim to umpire Mark Benson, and gave him little choice but to downgrade the charge.

Hansen pointed out that Symonds had aggressively and unnecessarily instigated the verbal clash with Harbhajan and also questioned the level of offence the Australian took at the alleged comment.

Given the context of the comment, the judge questioned whether it would have been offensive enough to sustain what he viewed as a very serious charge even if the evidence had been more compelling.

Harbhajan played the final Test pending a decision on his appeal. Australia won the series 2-1.

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