6 March 2013: ICT 2 Daily Summary – Contempt Proceedings Against Jamaat Leaders, Kamaruzzaman DW 1

6 March 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary – Contempt, Kamaruzzaman Examination of DW 1
Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Contempt Proceedings: Jamaat leadershipSelim Uddin and others (Accused not present)
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. Muhammad Kamaruzzaman : Examination of DW 1

Defense counsel for the Jamaat leaders Selim Uddin, Hamidur Rahman Azad MP and Rafiqul Islam said they were unable to produce their clients before the tribunal and that they that they had not been able to communicate to their clients the tribunal’s order requiring their attendance. Upon being asked by the tribunal about what may be done, the learned counsels said that they have no option but to surrender their vokalatnama, (the power as appointed advocates of the opposite parties) as it is not possible for them to continue representing the three Jamaat leaders. The tribunal asked the counsels to submit a written application to this effect and accepted their prayer of withdrawal as appointed advocates. Prosecutor Mr Rana Das Gupta submitted that an arrest warrant against the absent leaders should be issued by the Tribunal. He further stated that the opposition parties are intentionally disregarding the Tribunal’s order, showing their disrespect and lack of confidence in the institution.  The Tribunal thenissued an arrest warrant against the three leaders under Rule 46A of the Rules of Procedure read with Section 22 of the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973. They noted that the court had granted time to the leaders on four previous occasions, repeatedly asking for their presence, but with no response. The Tribunal directed the Inspector General of Police to take necessary steps to secure the arrest of the Jamaat trio on or before 21 March 2013.

The Tribunal then moved on to the case against Muhammad Kamaruzzaman. The Defense called its first witness, Md. Arshed Ali, the son of a martyr Ekabbor Ali. After being examined by Defense counsel the Prosecution started its cross-examination. In his testimony Ali described how his father and many others were killed by the Pakistani Army on 10th Srabon of the Bangla calendar during the 1971 Liberation War in Shohagpur, Benupara and Kakorkandi area of Sherpur.   Cross-examination is scheduled to continue on 7 March 2013.

Courtroom Dynamics
During the examination-in-chief of the defense witness, there was an intense argument between Defense counsel Kafil and two of the Tribunal-2 judges: Justice Obaidul Hassan and Judge Shahinur Islam. The argument started when the Defense objected to Judge Shahinur Islam asking questions to the witness. The Defense reacted by saying that he should be allowed to question his witness without interruptions. The Chairman said that contempt proceedings under Section 11(4) of the 1973 Act could be taken against the Defense counsel for similar behavior in future. The Defense counsel at one point said that he would withdraw himself and not continue before the Tribunal. After moments of silence, the situation calmed down after the Defense counsel offered his apology and the judges said that the court is a place to maintain decorum. Questioning was then resumed without any further incident. 

Chief Prosecutor vs. Kamaruzzaman – testimony of DW 1 Md Arshed Ali                                                 

Defense Examination in Chief
The Defense called Marshed Ali as their first witness.The witness testified that he is 61 years of age and a farmer from Benupara, Sherpur. He stated that he is the son of a victim of the Liberation War.

The witness testified regarding the brutal mass killing by the Pakistani Army in Shohagpur, Benupara anda Kakorkandi regions of Sherpur, which took place on Tuesday, 10th Srabon of the Bangla calendar during Bangladesh’s War of Liberation 1971. He described the situation in the area at that point of time, including the involvement of local influential people in assisting the Pakistani Army. He further described the transport conditiosn and the position of roads and communication to and from Sherpur Bidhoba Polli and referred to books describing the mass killing incident in that area. The witness stated that he does not know the accused Kamaruzzaman and has never seen him.

The witness stated that he studied up to Class-8 and worked as a farmer during the 1971 war period. He said he was in favor of independence and the Liberation War. He testified that the day when the mass killing took place was a Tuesday and that he was working on his farm that morning. At around 7 a.m. /7:30 a.m., he heard numerous gunshots and heavy firing which kept increasing. He stated that at around 8 a.m./ 8:30 a.m., Pakistani Army came to his house and shot his father Ekabbor Ali. Upon seeing this, he took shelter in the Shinghimari Khal (canal). Many from Shohagpur, Benupara and Kakorkandi area took shelter in that canal. Before evening, they heard that the Pakistan Army had left. When they returned home they found many dead bodies including that of his father. He and his neighbors buried seven bodies before midnight.

The witness further testified that many refugees from India and other places settled in that area on Government lands. He stated that local influential people including Kochi Chairman and few others wanted to wipe out these settlers. This coupled with the fact that the refugees helped the freedom fighters led to the brutal attack. Ali stated that prominent freedom fighters in his area included Ziaul Master, Ansar Master, Mirza Master and Shahabuddin Chairman.

Ali testified that he had read a book by Abdur Rahman Talukdar that contains list of eighty persons who were freedom fighters and martyrs, including the name of the witness’ father. The book has been exhibited as Exhibit-A, Volume-7, page 1-45. He further read another book on the incident in his area by Mamun-ur-Rashid named “Shohagpur Bidhoba Palli’r Konnara” which contains interviews with widows from the massacre. The book “Shohagpur er Bidhoba Konnnara 1971” has been exhibited as Exhibit-B, Volume-3, page-41-73 (it appears that the witness in his testimony was referring to this book).

The witness stated that after the independence of Bangladesh, Sheikh Shaheb (i.e. father of the nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) gave a check for Taka 1,000 each to the affected family members of those killed. He said that other than that he received no further support from any of the subsequent governments. He said that in 2007 (during the tenure of the army backed caretaker government), after  the publication of various newspaper reports on the matter, Bangladesh Army forces visited the area and formed a Bidhoba Polli Trust. He said he and his family have been receiving small pensions from the said trust. Ali also testified that Mr Jalal, one of the prosecution witnesses, is the son of a martyr and is a local land agent.

The Defense asked Ali about the condition of roads to and from Bidhoba Polli in the 1971 period, the witness said that the distance from Bidhoba Polli to Ahmad Nagar was 35 to 40 Kilometers and the distance from Bidhoba Polli to Sherpur is 40 to 45 Kilometers. He testified that there were no appropriate roads for movement by cars and one could only walk along these roads during the time of the conflict.

Prosecution Cross-Examination
The prosecution briefly cross-examined Ali. They alleged that the witness is a Jamaat supporter who is acquainted with the accused. They claimed that he was providing testimony in favor of Kamaruzzaman for these reasons.

The witness was asked whether he received a summons from the tribunal for which he came to give evidence in favor of the accused. He replied that he did not get any summon and that he was informed by Kamaruzzaman’s elder brother who also bought him to Dhaka on Saturday 9 March 2013.

Ali stated that his house is 30 kilometers away from Kamaruzzaman’s house and that he does not know anyone from the accused’s family. He said that one Azgar member came with the brother of Kamaruzzaman and that that was when he learned about the need for his testimony.

Cross examination is to be continued on 6 March 2013.