21 Jan 2013: First Verdict Expected for Abul Kalam Azad “Bachu”

The Registrar of the International Crimes Tribunal, Mr AKM Nasiruddin Mahmud officially announced yesterday after ICT-2’s brief morning session that the Tribunal-2 has fixed Monday, 21.01.2013 to pronounce the verdict in the case of Abul Kalam Azad aka Bacchu Rajakar. This shall mark the maiden judgment in cases involving the trial of accused for their alleged crimes against humanity during the period of Bangladesh’s War of Liberation in 1971.

The Tribunal issued an arrest warrant against Abul Kalam Azad on 3 April 2012. On 2 September 2012, the Prosecution submitted formal charges against this former leader of Islami Chhatra Sangha, the then student wing of Jamaat-e-Islami, accusing him of 10 counts of Crimes against Humanity. Unlike the other senior members of his party now facing trial, Azad’s trial has been carried out in absentia. Azad absconded when allegations of war crimes were leveled against him. Accordingly, on 7 October 2012 the tribunal appointed Abdus Sukur Khan, an advocate of the Supreme Court to act as the state appointed defense counsel.

The War Crimes Studies Center has not been provided access to the Chrge Framing Order against Abul Kalam Azad and as of yet has not found the document through journalists or either of the parties. Our understanding is that Azad, a veteran leader of Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami, has been charged with the following counts of Crimes against Humanity:

  • abduction, confinement and torture of Ranjit Kumar Nath, alias Babu Nath, of Faridpur in the first week of June 1971;
  • abduction, torture and 43-day confinement in an army camp of Abu Yusuf Pakhi on July 26, 1971;
  • murder of Sudhangshu Mohan Roy of Kolaran village in Faridpur on May 14;
  • murder of Madhab Chandra Biswas of Purura Namapara village of Faridpur on May 16, 1971;
  • rape of two Hindu women in Natibodia village in Boalmari of Faridpur on June 8, 1971
  • murder of Chitta Ranjan Das of Fulbaria in Faridpur on June 3, 1971;
  • attack on the Hindu-majority Hasamdia village in Faridpur including the looting and burning of houses and killing of seven civilians on May 17; and
  • abduction of an Hindu girl of Ujirpur Bazarpara in Faridpur on May 18, 1971.

The verdict in the Azad case will be announced today by ICT 2 Chairman Mr Justice Obaidul Hassan, accompanied by the other two judges Mr Justice Mozibur Rahman Miah and Mr Judge Md. Shahinur Islam, which will mark the first verdict issued by the Tribunal. In the absence of any previous judgment of similar nature, it remains to be seen whether this judgment will be used as a judicial precedent to be followed by the other pending cases before the Bangladeshi International Crimes Tribunals.It is notable that this case was by far the fastest in terms of when the trial began and ended (other trials have extended for over a year, not including the investigation period), and that the Defense did not call any witnesses.

If convicted, Abul Kalam Azad, known as “Bacchu”, shall have the right of appeal within 30 days from tomorrow, under Section 21(1) of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973, to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. The prosecution will have a similar right to appeal under Section 21(2) of the ICT