Ballarat restaurant murder trial begins

A jury has been selected in a Supreme Court trial over the death of a Pakistani man who was found in a Ballarat restaurant 18 months ago.

Nepalese man Hari Prasad Dhakal, 51, is accused of murdering Pakistani-born IT worker Abdullah Siddiqi, 38, in 2016.

Siddiqi was found dead in a Ballarat restaurant on the evening of October 25 that year.

The trial, which started in Ballarat yesterday, will be overseen by Justice Lex Lasry and is tipped to last up to two weeks.

Dhakal formally pleaded not guilty to the charge in court yesterday.

He stood in the dock flanked by a translator, his solicitor and custody officers.

A jury of 12 people was then selected along with a reserve juror.

Justice Lasry urged the jurors to ignore any emotion when listening to arguments and viewing evidence during the trial, telling them it was their duty to decide if Dhakal was guilty or not guilty of Siddiqi’s murder.

He also told jurors to avoid reading or listening to any media reporting of the trial and instead focus only on what was presented in the courtroom.

“Journalists come and go – they look for a good story,” he said.

Up to 10 witnesses could give evidence during the trial.

Justice Lasry reminded the jurors that the law presumes Dhakal is innocent until proven guilty.

The decision of the 12 jurors must be unanimous before they reach a verdict in the case.

The trial will hear opening addresses from Crown prosecutor Pat Bourke and Defence counsel Theo Alexander on Wednesday.