10 March 2013: ICT-2 Daily Summary
Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:
- Contempt Proceedings against Jamaat leader Selim Uddin (Present), Daily Shongram (warning made to present journalist), and MK Anwar (Not Present),
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid : Order of three applications and examination of prosecution witnesses (Accused Not Present)
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Muhammad Kamaruzzaman: Cross-Examination of Defense witness 1, Direct and Cross-Examination of Cross-Examination Defense Witness 2 (Accused Present)
- Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim : Adjourned Due to Illness of Prosecution Witness
Today the Tribunal dealt with ongoing contempt proceedings against Jamaat leaders, MK the Daily Shongram, and MK Anwar. In the Mujahid case the Tribunal disposed of three Defense applications and then heard the direct examination of Prosecution witnesses 14, 15 and 16, all of whom are expert witnesses regarding documentary and historical evidence. In the Kamaruzzaman case the Tribunal heard the cross-examination of Defense witness 1, and both direct and cross-examination of Defense witness 2. Finally, in the case of Abdul Alim the Tribunal allowed an adjournment due to the illness of the Prosecution witness scheduled to testify.
Contempt Proceedings against Jamaat Leader Selim Uddin
Prosecutor Rana Das Gupta began proceedings by notifying the court of the arrest of Mr Selim Uddin, a Jamaat leader for whom the tribunal had issued an arrest warrant on 6 March 2013. Members of Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested Selim from Kawran Bazar area on 8 March 2013 in conjunction with the contempt proceedings and two other criminal matters. Selim Uddin was presented before the Dhaka Metropolitan Magistrate who issued an order allowing questioning on remand for ten days. The Prosecution requested the Tribunal to pass an order for the production of Selim Uddin at the earliest time possible given the fact that he is already in police custody. The Tribunal passed such an order, asking the concerned authority to produce the Jamaat leader before the tribunal at 2 p.m. on the same day. In compliance with the same, Mr Selim Uddin was produced before the court at 2 p.m.
Defense counsel Tajul Islam was appointed as counsel for Selim Uddin and submitted a three-fold application requesting bail, time to prepare an explanation and also dispensation to proceed without the personal appearance of the client. The Defense stated that the accused was concerned about being present at the Tribunal because of security threats. Tajul Islam also requested that the court instruct the Investigation Agency not to torture the accused while on remand for the other two criminal proceedings.
Against the objection of the Prosecution, the Tribunal accepted the Defense’s applications and released Selim Uddin on bail subject to a security bond of Taka 100,000 (one lakh) and surety by two lawyers. However, they stated that they lacked the jurisdiction and authority to direct the Investigation Agency not to torture the accused as the other two cases are independent of the ICT. The Tribunal stated that the proper court to issue such a directive is the High Court.
Warning of Possible Contempt Issued Against Daily Shongram
After hearing the contempt proceedings against Selim Uddin, the Tribunal also expressed concern regarding possibly contemptible comments published in the Daily Shongram in its 7th March issue. The report stated that Awami League leaders facing contempt charges were only asked to submit written explanations through their lawyers, wheareas the Tribunal required the personal appearance of Jamaat leaders facing similar proceedings. The court called the staff reporter of the Daily Shongram who was present in the courtroom and instructed him to inform the higher officials of the paper that this type of report tends to give an adverse impression of the Tribunal and will not be tolerated. The presiding judge said that it is entirely within a court’s discretion who it will to ask to personally appear and that no one may comment on such discretionary decisions. The court further explained that arrest warrants were only issued against Selim Uddin and other Jamaat leaders after they repeatedly disregarded the Tribunal’s order to attend in person. A personal appearance was sought by reason of the nature of their comments, which purportedly contained a threat of waging a civil war if the Tribunal were to proceed. All reporters and news casters present in the court room were asked to exercise caution and due care in reporting on matters pending before the court.
Contempt Proceedings against MK Anwar
The Tribunal then moved to the contempt proceedings against BNP leader MK Anwar. Counsel for the accused submitted that MK Anwar had been misquoted by newspapers and that he holds the Tribunal in the highest regard. His comments were meant to criticize the government for its decision to prosecute only leaders of the opposition parties, and not to hold accountable the Rajakars and anti-liberation forces within the Awami League.
The Tribunal rejected the argument that the media had misquoted MK Anwar, stating that the comments were published in multiple places and it was unlikely that they all incorrectly reported the matter. Additionally, the Tribunal stated that while political conflict between the two major political parties is not appropriate for adjudication by the Tribunal, derogatory comments about the government that ultimately affect the impression of the Tribunal can and will be acted upon. The Tribunal expressed their displeasure that MK Anwar had attempted justify his comments rather than giving an unconditional apology. They noted that courts in common law jurisdiction follow jurisprudence allowing them to punish citizens for criticizing judges under the doctrine of scandalizing the court. The Tribunal stated that criticism is not equivalent to scandalizing, and said there may indeed be some criticism. They stated MK Anwar’s comments were not about a sub-judice matter. However, they condemned such reckless comments regarding the Tribunal, terming them reckless, foolish and disparaging.
However, the Tribunal concluded that in consideration of the social and political position of the accused, the court would not take any further steps against him, instead cautioning him that no such comment shall be tolerated in the future.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Mujahid
Rejection of Defense Orders
The Tribunal then passed orders pertaining to three applications filed by the Defense in the case against Ali Ahsan Muhammad Mujahid, rejecting all of them. The three applications were for 1) permission to produce additional documents in support of the Defense case, 2) judicial action against Prosecution witness 1 for making untrue statements under oath, and 3) permission to ask certain questions to Prosecution witness 1, which the defense were not allowed to ask during his initial testimony. Justice Mujibur Rahman Miah read the orders of rejection, stating that the applications were not rejected because neither the International Crimes (Tribunal) Act 1973 nor the Rules of Procedure contain any provision to allow the Defense to produce additional documents at a later stage of the trial, or to take steps for alleged perjury by a prosecution witness, or to cross-examine a prosecution witness on recall.
Examination of Prosecution Witnesses 14, 15 and 16
Three seizure list witnesses in Mujahid’s case were then examined, including Prosecution witness 14, Md Azabuddin Miah, the Assistant Librarian of Bangla Academy (Newspaper Section); Prosecution witness 15, Amena Khatun, the manager of the Liberation War Museum’s Documentary Section; and Prosecution witness 16, Shapan Kumar Biswas, the Keeper of the National Museum’s History and Arts Section. All three witnesses provided perfunctory testimony authenticating documents provided to the Investigating Officer.
Examination-in-Chief and Cross-examination of Prosecution Witness 14
Witness Md Azabuddin Miah testified that, in his official capacity, he provided documents to the Investigation Officer.
During his cross-examination the witness was asked whether the Investigation Officers visiting his office brought a photocopy machine with them. He replied that they only brought laptop, scanner and printer but no photocopy machine. He stated that the Investigators were there half a day, staying until lunch hour. He stated that the IO looked to the documents to see their relevance, then scanned and printed them. Photocopies of the documents taken have been submitted to the court.
Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination of Prosecution Witness 15
The witness testified that on 3 March 2011, Monowara Begum, the Investigation Officer of the instant case, collected a high number of documents from the Liberation War Museum. These included extracts from documents that show that Al-Badr had been given arms and ammunitions from the Pakistani government (Item-3, pages 2310) and documents including the name of thirty persons who were given arms and ammunitions (Exhibit-13).
On cross-examination the witness was asked whether she knows how the documents were collected by the museum. She said that she knows it but will not disclose it in open court. The Defense also asked if the documents contained her signature, to which she said no. When asked the witness said she did not know who had sent the letters being entered into evidence as exhibits.
Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination of Prosecution Witness 16
Shapan kumar Biswas testified that on 20 April 2011 the Investigation Officer visited his office and collected fifteen items (listed in Volume 2, page 644). These included copies of ID Cards issued to Al-Badr members. He also testified that again on 5 July 2011 another eleven items were seized by the Investigating Officer.
On cross-examination the witness was asked whether some the documents submitted were copies of copies, and not copies of the original document. He confirmed that this was true. He was then asked whether there the documents could have been altered by mechanical changes during the process. He said that he could not say that without seeing the actual documents.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Kamaruzzaman
Cross-examination of Defense Witness 1
Defense witness 1, Md Arshed Ali, was cross-examined by the Prosecution. During his examination-in-chief the witness testified regarding the brutal mass killing by the Pakistani Army in Shohagpur, Benupara anda Kakorkandi region of Sherpur on Tuesday, 10th Srabon of the Bangla calendar, during Bangladesh’s Liberation War of 1971. He described the situation that was persisting in the area at that point of time, including the involvement of local influential people and the Chairman in assisting the Pakistani Army. He further described the conditions of transportation, the position of roads, and communication to and from Sherpur Bidhoba Polli. He referred to books describing the mass killing in that area. The witness also said that he does not know the accused Kamaruzzaman and had never seen him.
On cross-examination the Prosecution suggested that the defense witness knows Kamaruzzaman and is aware about the fact that he assisted with Pakistani Army and was involved with the described incident but is concealing the same by reason of the fact that he is a Jamaat supporter.
In his testimony he referred to the book “Golpey golpey Itihash Nalita Baari,’ published in February 2011, and the book “Shohagpur er Bidhoba Konnnara 1971,” published in February 2012. The Prosecution suggested that these books were published to serve special purposes and that the witness is also associated with its publication. They also suggested that cars could be used in his area even during the 1971 war period and that there were accessible roads. The witness denied the suggestion that he knows Kamaruzzaman or about his involvement with the Pakistani Army. He stated that Kamaruzzaman only become somewhat known in his community in the last 10 years as a Jamaat leader and many still don’t know him.
Courtroom Administration During Witness Testimony: Allegations of Threats
The Defense strongly objected to the presence of one Mr Panu, whose presence they claimed was aimed to threaten the witness. The Defense witness expressed concern about the presence of two such persons who belong to his local community. The Defense therefore requested the Tribunal to require those persons to leave the during the witness’ testimony. Prosecutor Zead al-Malum stated that the presence of the individuals should be accepted as one is a Prosecution witness and the other is a citizen and is entitled to watch the court proceedings. Although the court said that they would make the two individuals in question leave if the Defense witness felt insecure, they asked the Defense witness directly in open court whether he was afraid or objected to their presence. The Defense witness replied that he was not afraid and that it was alright if the two individuals stayed. The two persons were therefore not asked to leave and examination was conducted in their presence.
Examination-in-Chief and Cross-Examination of Defense Witness 2
Defense witness Al-Haj Moulobi Mohammad Askor Ali testified regarding to his relationship with martyr Golam Mostafa and his family and his knowledge about Mostafa’s murder. He testified that Mostafa’s family never alleged that anyone named Kamaruzzaman was involved with death of the victim. He stated that Shahid Golam Mostafa’s house was in the same Union as his, in adjacent villages. The witness joined in Khorkhoria Junior Girls School in the year 1965 as teacher of Islamic studies. Ms Kohinur, younger sister of victim Mostafa was a student of that school and their father was also a teacher therein. Because of this, the witness stated he had a close relationship with their family and used to often visit their house.
He testified that at the end of August 1971, on a Friday, he heard that Golam Mostafa was killed by the Pakistani military. Upon hearing this, he went to their house. Mostafa’s dead body was brought to the house after Juma prayer (Friday prayer in noon) and Janaza (a prayer conducted by Muslims before burial of the deceased) was conducted after Asr prayer (afternoon prayer). He was then buried.
He further testified that after Bangladesh became independent, Mostafa’s mother became the Management Committee Chairman of the girls’ school and renamed it as Shahid Golam Mostafa Junior Girls School. The witness continued his service therein. He was also appointed as the Imam (Minister of religion) in the mosque of the neighborhood after Moulobi Md Abdul Rahim, the previous imam was dismissed for being a supporter of Jamaat during the Liberation War. He stated that despite his ongoing close relationship with the family he never heard from the Mostafa’s parents or anyone else in the locality that anyone called Kamaruzzaman was in involved with the killing.
The witness testified that his date of birth was 1 March 1943 and that at that time he had no family relationship with Golam Mostafa. When asked who helped the Pakistani military during the 1971 period he replied that he heard about the involvement of individuals named Mofazzel, Kamra, Shurozzaman, and Samedul. He said he does not remember other names. He testified that he did not hear the name of Kamaruzzaman as a Rajakar/Al-Badr member. He was asked to name the siblings of Golam Mostofa. He said that Mostafa had seven siblings. Golam Mostafa was the eldest and others were Kohinur, Mosharraf Hossain and Mintu. He said he does not remember the names of the younger siblings.
At the end of the cross-examination the Prosecution suggested that the witness knows about the involvement of Kamaruzzaman but it concealing it because he was bribed by Kamaruzzaman’s family to give false testimony. The witness became upset after these accusations and stated loudly that the Almighty Allah has given him enough wealth and that he would never take bribe for anything.
Chief Prosecutor vs. Abdul Alim
The Prosecutor of Abdul Alim’s case said that Prosecution Witness Laily Begum came from Jaipurhah and is unwell today. The Defense witness said that the matter be shifted to 19th March. The tribunal fixed 11.03.2013 for her examination.