24 March 2013: ICT-1 Daily Summary – Gholam Azam Defense Closing Arguments, Chowdhury Defense Application for Police Protection

Today the Tribunal heard matters in the following cases:

  1. Chief Prosecutor vs. Gholam Azam – Defense Closing arguments
  2. Chief Prosecutor vs. Salauddin Qader Chowdhury – Defense Counsel Application for Police Protection to and from the Tribunal

Tajul Islam, Defense Counsel of Gholam Azam filed an application seeking permission to meet with his client Gholam Azam. Additionally, the Defense concluded the closing arguments on factual issues. Arguments continued for 5 days and addressed Prosecution and Defense witnesses as well as Charge 5. The Tribunal then adjourned the proceedings until 27 March 2013, when Abdur Razzaq is scheduled to present the Defense arguments on legal issues and Charges 1 to 4.

In the case of Salauddin Qader Chowdhury, senior Defense counsel Ahsanul Huq Hena, filed an application seeking police protection for coming to the Tribunal during days when hartals or other political unrest present security concerns. He requested that his car be accompanied by full time uniformed police gunman. The Tribunal scheduled a hearing of the petition for tomorrow and adjourned the proceedings until then.

Chief Prosecutor vs. Gholam Azam- Defense Closing Arguments
Prosecution Witness 16 – The Investigating Officer
The Defense read out different paragraphs from the testimony of the Investigating Officer, Prosecution witness 16. Mizanul Islam submitted that during the cross-examination the witness was asked whether Gholam Azam had a direct connection with the local Peace Committee but was only able to refer to Exhibit-57, the Daily Pakistan dated 16 April 1971. The Defense noted that the contents of Exhibit-57 do not answer the question. The article discusses the formation of a 21 member executive committee within the Peace Committee and states its purpose as bringing back normalcy at the direction of the Central Peace Committee. On cross-examination the Investigating Officer admitted that he did not find any direction or order bearing the signature of Gholam Azam. The witness also admitted that there was no resolution which designated Gholam Azam the power to cancel or suspend any local level Peace Committee. The Defense noted that the Investigating Officer was unable to specify who had authority within the Peace Committee to issue directions or orders to the local level committees. The Investigating Officer claimed that directions and orders from the Central Peace Committee were communicated to the local level Peace Committees by newspapers, television and radio broadcast. He further testified that the local level Peace Committees were bound to follow the directions. However, the Defense noted that the witness had admitted that he did not know the broadcasting range of Dhaka television stations and acknowledged that due to poor communication there was often a delay in orders reaching newspapers in remote areas such as Taknaf and Tetulia. The witness also admitted that he had no evidence as to whether the Daily Shangram or the Daily Paigam was distributed in Patuakhali (a remote area).

The Defense also argued that Exhibit-479 did not support the Investigating Officer’s testimony or the Prosecution’s claims regarding the intention behind the formation of the Peace Committee.  The Defense also questioned the reliability of the Prosecution’s claims, given different newspapers alternately reported that Khaja Khairuddin or Mawlana Farid Uddin was the President of the Peace Committee.

Defense Witness 1
The Defense then summarized key points of the testimony of Defense witness 1. They noted that while Prosecution witnesses were allowed to give testimony regarding pre and post Liberation war incidents, the Defense witness was not allowed to testify about post-war events. Mizanul Islam submitted that during cross-examination the witness testified that Gholam Azam had used the words ‘miscreants’ to describe the armed opposition, not the freedom fighters or civilians as alleged by Prosecution witnesses.

The Defense also noted that during cross-examination the witness stated that ‘Raw Forman Ali Khan: Bangladesher Jonmo, (Exhibit-BC), is a translated book and the introduction of this book was written by Muntasir Mamun. Prosecutor Haider Ali read out the last paragraph of page-51 and first paragraph of page-52 , in which it is stated that on 22 February 1971 the President called a meeting and invited all governors and MLA. During the meeting, the President said the “bastard” must be punished. Defense witness 1 testified that the context of the book made it clear who was referred to by the epither ‘bastard,’ (implying that it was Sheikh Mujibor Rahman). The Defense questioned what the Prosecution intended to prove by asking who Yeahya was referring to  when using the term ‘bastard.’ The Defense noted that Prosecution exhibits also show that Raw Forman Ali insulted political pro-independence leaders and described them in insulting terms, Mizanul Islam questioned how this could be connected to the claim that Gholam Azam had superior command authority and responsibility.

The Defense then referred to a book written by Sahriar Kabir ’71, Er Ghatokera Ke Kothai’, in which Sahriar Kabir (a witness in another case at the ICT) claimed that the Collaborators Ordinance was passed to save collaborators. Sahriar also stated that Sheikh Mujibor Rahman breached the people’s trust by declaring a general amnesty for all collaborators. Mizanul Islam questioned why now Sahriar Kabir and others are taking the opposite position.

The Defense then discussed various evidence exhibits. Mizanul Islam submitted that in Exhibit-1, a video clip of a talk show ‘Shoja Kotha’ aired by Desh TV on 14 May 2012, the Minister Kamrul Islam and M.A Hasan claimed that the Pakistani Army clearly had command responsibility. Additionally in Exhibit-2, a video clipping of a program ‘Ronogoner Dinguli’ aired by BTV on 20 April 2012, Shahidul Huq Mama (a witness in another ICT case) claimed key documents relating to the plan for the massacre of the intellectual community were seized from the house of a Pakistani minister. The Defense questioned why those documents were not presented before the tribunal despite being in the custody of government. The Defense also questioned why the Prosecution did not bring Shahidul Huq Mama to testify in this case regarding the killing of the intellectuals.

Mizanul Islam submitted that Prosecution failed to produce a single document showing that the Razakars, Al-Badr, and Al-shams forces worked under a single command or showing that a single person was the head of these three forces. The Defense further alleged that the Prosecution failed to produce any evidence showing that Gholam Azam had close relations with the Pakistani leader Bhutto. Mizanul Islam also pointed out Exhibit-3, a prosecution exhibit showing that Gholam Azam requested that President Yeahya withdraw press censorship. Additionally it was pointed out that the Investigating Officer had admitted that such widespread censorship did in fact exist during the war. Mizanul Islam argued that President Yeahya did not agree to Gholam Azam’s request, again showing that Gholam Azam could not have had superior command or responsibility. Additionally, the Defense argued the mere fact of a meeting between the President and Gholam Azam could not be used to indicate that the Defendant had superior status. He argued that Gholam Azam had no superior or command responsibility on 25 March 1971.

The Defense claimed that the head of the Razakars was a separate entity and that Gholam Azam had no command or control over their forces. While the Prosecution claimed that most of the members of the Razakars forces were from Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Chhatra Shangha parties, the Defense argued that they failed to provide documentary evidence in support of these allegations. They pointed out that the Investigation Officer admitted that he had no clear knowledge about the formation of the auxiliary forces. Mizanul Islam submitted that Prosecution could not prove that Gholam Azam had command responsibility or superior authority over any auxiliary force.

Charge 5
The Defense then turned to Charge 5. They noted that Prosecution witness 13, the wife of victim Shiru Mia, had testified regarding this charge and that the Tribunal accepted the out-of-court statement of Mohsin Ali Khan as evidence under section 19(2) of the ICT Act 1973. The Defense argued that Prosecution documents allege that the killing of Shiru Mia occurred in Comilla, while Prosecution witnesses stated that it occurred in Brahmanbaria. Mizanul Islam noted that during the cross-examination Prosecution witness 13 claimed that the letter she carried from Mohsin Ali to his brother Fazlur Rahman contained two lines of instruction that Shiru Mia and his son should be freed. Mizanul Islam submitted that Prosecution witness 13 claimed that she heard about the contents of the letter from Fazlul Rahman, who is now deceased. Mizanul Islam submitted that if the letter was from Gholam Azam and instructed the captors that they should spare the life of Shiru Mia and his son and Peyara Miah, then the fact that they were killed goes directly against the Prosecution’s claim that Gholam Azam had superior and command responsibility over the Razzakar forces. Additionally the Defense stated that it is contradictory to charge Gholam Azam with the killing of Shiru Miah if he wrote a letter trying to save both their lives. The Defense also noted that Prosecution witness 13 did not read the letter herself, and that it cannot be proved that she heard about the content of the letters from Fazlur Rahman because he is deceased.

Court-room Dynamics
At the beginning of the Tribunal’s proceedings Gholam Azam’s counsel, Mizanul Islam, and Salauddin Qader Chowdhury’s counsel, Ahsanul Huq Hena, agreed that as the Gholam Azam closing arguments would take up the full day and Mr. Hena was not feeling well, Defense for Chowdhury would seek adjournment until tomorrow. However, Prosecutor Zead-Al-Malum objected and asked the Tribunal to hear the Prosecution witnesses in the Chowdhury case. Justice Anwarul Hossain said that even if they rejected the prayer of Ahsanul Huq Hena they would not be able to hear the prosecution witnesses today because of the ongoing closing arguments in Gholam Azam’s case.

Zead-al-Malum also referred to Salauddin Qader Chowdhury as ‘Saka,’ an insulting epithet used for the Defendant. Defense counsel Huq Hena objected and Justice Jahangir Hossain requested the Prosecutor not to use the name again. The Prosecutor and Justice Jahangir Hossain then engaged in a verbal altercation. Finally Prosecutor Zead-al-Malum apologized for his comment.